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Coping With Pregnancy and Chronic Illness. 

 July 8, 2024

By  Linda Rook

Introduction.

Being pregnant is a significant life event that brings about a variety of physical, emotional, and psychological changes. For women with arthritis, the journey of pregnancy can be particularly complex. Requiring careful management and support to ensure the well-being of both the mother and the unborn child.

This blog will explore the challenges and strategies for coping with pregnancy, while managing arthritis, focusing on medical care, lifestyle adjustments, emotional support, and personal coping mechanisms.

You must have so many questions that you need answering such as:

1. Will my rheumatoid arthritis cause problems?

2. Can the medication affect my unborn child.

3. How will I be able to cope with the emotional impact of managing arthritis, during pregnancy.

and much more...

So I shall start by explaining what you can come across when you have arthritis and being pregnant. 

Understanding Arthritis and Pregnancy.

Arthritis is a term used to describe over 100 different types of joint diseases and conditions. The most common being osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These conditions can cause pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced joint mobility, affecting daily activities and overall quality of life. Being pregnant can introduces additional physical demands and hormonal changes that can influence the symptoms and management of arthritis.

Impact on Physical Health.

Pregnancy-induced hormonal changes can affect the course of arthritis. Some of you that have rheumatoid arthritis may experience a remission of symptoms during pregnancy. Whilst others might see no change or worsening of their condition. Osteoarthritis however, may get worse by the additional weight and altered gait associated with pregnancy. Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness can make it challenging for pregnant women with arthritis to perform daily tasks.

Impact on Mental Health.

The emotional impact of managing arthritis during pregnancy can be significant. You may become anxious about potential complications. The concerns about pain management, and the physical limitations by arthritis can lead to increased stress. Additionally, the anticipation of motherhood and the responsibilities that come with it, can add to the mental load, making emotional support and mental health care crucial components.

Medical Management and Prenatal Care.

Effective management of arthritis during pregnancy requires a coordinated approach involving various healthcare providers. Regular prenatal care visits are essential for monitoring the health of both you and the baby, and making necessary adjustments to treatment plans.

Preconception Planning.

If you are planning to conceive you should engage in preconception planning with the healthcare provider. Involving a thorough evaluation of your arthritis, stabilization, and optimization of medication to ensure they are safe for you and the baby. Some arthritis medications may need to be adjusted or discontinued due to potential risks to the foetus, while others may be necessary to maintain the health and mobility.

Multidisciplinary Care Team.

A care team is crucial for managing pregnancy with arthritis. The team typically includes obstetricians, rheumatologists, primary care physicians, and mental health professionals. Coordinated care ensures that all aspects of your health are addressed and that potential complications are promptly identified and managed.

Monitoring and Adjustments.

Regular monitoring through blood tests, ultrasounds, and other diagnostic tools helps track the progress of the pregnancy and the status of the arthritis. Adjustments to treatment plans are made based on these findings. For example, if you are a women with rheumatoid arthritis you may need to adjust your anti-inflammatory medications.

Medication Management.

Managing arthritis during pregnancy often involves careful consideration of medication use. Many drugs used to treat arthritis, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and biologics, may have implications for pregnancy and foetal development.

NSAIDs and Corticosteroids.

Commonly used to manage pain and inflammation, are generally avoided during the third trimester due to the risk of complications such as, premature closure of the foetal ductus arteriosus. Corticosteroids like prednisone can be used in the lowest effective dose, to manage severe arthritis symptoms. Although long-term use can pose risks such as gestational diabetes and hypertension.

DMARDs and Biologics.

These could be methotrexate and leflunomide, are not used during pregnancy due to the disturbance of the growth and development of the foetus. However, some DMARDs, like hydroxychloroquine and sulfasalazine, are considered safer and may be continued under close medical supervision. Biologic agents, which target specific components of the immune system, require careful evaluation. Some biologics, like tumour necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, may be used during pregnancy, but others may need to be discontinued.

Non-Pharmacological Interventions.

In addition to medication, non-pharmacological interventions can play a significant role in managing arthritis during pregnancy. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and prenatal yoga can help alleviate pain and improve joint function. These interventions can also provide valuable strategies for maintaining physical activity and managing stress.

Lifestyle Adjustments and Practical Coping Strategies.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and implementing practical coping strategies can help you with your arthritis and improve the overall well-being during pregnancy.

Nutrition and Diet.

Balancing a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods can help manage arthritis symptoms and support a healthy pregnancy. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and flaxseeds, have anti-inflammatory properties. Diets that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides the necessary nutrients for both you and the baby. It is also important to maintain adequate hydration.

Pregnant lady on a balanced ball.

Physical Activity.

Regular physical activity is important for maintaining joint function and overall health. Low-impact exercises such as swimming, walking, and prenatal yoga, can help reduce joint pain and stiffness, improve flexibility, and promote cardiovascular health. Physical activity can also improve mood and reduce stress. You should consult with your healthcare providers to develop a safe and effective exercise plan.

Rest and Sleep.

Adequate rest and sleep are crucial for managing arthritis symptoms and supporting overall health during pregnancy. Fatigue is a common symptom of both pregnancy and arthritis, so it is important to prioritize rest. Strategies for improving sleep quality include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and using supportive pillows to reduce joint discomfort.

Stress Management.

Effective stress management techniques can help mitigate the emotional impact of arthritis during pregnancy. Practices such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and meditation can promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. Creating a calm and supportive environment at home, engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy, and setting realistic goals and expectations can also contribute to a more positive outlook.

Emotional and Psychological Support.

The emotional and psychological well-being of pregnant women with arthritis is a critical component of comprehensive care. Psychological and emotional support can come from various sources, including mental health professionals, support groups, family, and friends.

Counselling and Therapy.

Individual counselling or therapy can provide a safe space for women to express their fears and anxieties, develop coping strategies, and receive guidance on managing the emotional challenges of pregnancy and arthritis. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), and other therapeutic modalities can be particularly effective in reducing anxiety and depression.

Support Groups.

Joining a support group with other pregnant women or with arthritis can provide a sense of community and shared understanding. These groups offer a platform to share experiences, exchange practical advice, and receive emotional support, from peers who are going through similar challenges.

A support group for pregnancy.

Family and Social Support.

A strong support system from family and friends can significantly alleviate the emotional burden of managing pregnancy and arthritis. Loved ones can offer practical help with daily tasks, accompany women to medical appointments, and provide emotional encouragement.

Preparing for Labour and Delivery.

When preparing for labour and delivery it involve careful planning and coordination, especially for women with arthritis. Discussions with healthcare providers, should include a detailed birth plan, that takes into account the arthritis and any potential complications.

Birth Plan.

A birth plan outlines the preferences and expectations for labour and delivery. For women with arthritis, this plan should include considerations for pain management, preferred birthing positions, and any special accommodations needed. The birth plan should be flexible to allow for adjustments based on the evolving circumstances of labour and delivery.

Mother and newborn

Hospital Arrangements.

Choosing a hospital with the necessary resources and expertise to manage high-risk pregnancies, can provide peace of mind. Ensuring that the hospital staff are aware of the arthritis. They should also have access to the relevant medical records, this can facilitate a smoother labour and delivery process. Some women may also benefit from a consultation with an anaesthesiologist before delivery to discuss pain management options and any potential risks associated with their condition.

Postpartum Care.

A postpartum care is crucial for the recovery of women with arthritis. This period involves monitoring for any exacerbation of arthritis symptoms, managing postpartum depression or anxiety, and ensuring that the baby is thriving. Regular follow-up appointments with healthcare providers, support from family and friends, and access to mental health resources are essential components of postpartum care.

Conclusion.

Coping with pregnancy and arthritis requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the unique challenges faced by each woman. Through preconception planning, coordinated medical care, lifestyle adjustments, emotional and psychological support. Also a thorough preparation for labour and delivery, women can navigate this complex journey with resilience and hope. 

Resources for Further Support.

For women seeking additional support and information on managing pregnancy and arthritis, the following resources can be valuable:

•     Arthritis Foundation: Offers comprehensive information on arthritis, including resources for pregnant women.

•     American College of Rheumatology: Provides guidelines and recommendations for managing arthritis during pregnancy.

•     National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS): Offers educational materials on arthritis and pregnancy.

  • Pregnancy and Parenting After Arthritis (PPA): An online community and support group for women navigating pregnancy and parenting with arthritis.
  • Mindful Mamas Club: Provides mindfulness and mental health resources for pregnant women and new mothers.

By leveraging these resources and engaging with healthcare providers, women with arthritis can empower themselves to manage their condition effectively and enjoy a healthy and fulfilling pregnancy.

I hope this blog has helped you. Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on the new blogs. Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message, and I shall get back to you.

In the meantime, if this post is informative, I would be very grateful if you would help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to tell them. So please share it on Twitter (X) or Facebook or send them an email.

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I am not a medical professional, and this blog is for information only. When and if you have any worries, you should consult your doctor.

I hope this blog has helped and good luck with your little bundle of joy.

https://foodwitharthitis.com

Linda Rook

Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 


Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.


Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.


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