Book Review: “Arthritis, Pregnancy, And The Path To Parenthood” By Suzie Edward May
As soon as I started thinking about getting pregnant for the first time, I immediately started researching how living with RA was going to impact my pregnancy (and my chances of getting pregnant in the first place). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find as much information about this topic as I would have liked. And, at least in my experience, most of the information I did find was technical and very discouraging.
That’s why I was delighted to discover Suzie May’s book, “Arthritis, Pregnancy, And The Path To Parenthood.” Unfortunately, this book isn’t readily available in the United States. I ordered my copy directly from Suzie May’s website and was pleasantly surprised when it arrived with a handwritten note from the author thanking me for my purchase. From my personal research on this topic, this is really the only book of its kind on the world. I think it is a must-read for anyone with RA who is thinking about starting a family.
I found myself engrossed as soon as I started reading the first chapter, which explains Suzie’s diagnosis story. The similarities between our two stories resonated with me immediately. She was diagnosed at age 27, only two years older than I was. She was in law school when she was diagnosed, as was I! And she spent a lot of time adjusting her career aspirations to the realities of her disease, which is something I still think about and work on daily. By the time I reached the end of the first chapter I was in tears over how much I felt like this stranger – a person living literally halfway around the world from me – would be able to understand what I was going through.
I read the whole book cover to cover in one sitting. By sharing intimate, honest, and insightful experiences from herself and interviews from other women living around the world with RA, Suzie manages to cover many of the topics related to RA and pregnancy that I had questions about. The book starts by covering the physical and psychological challenges associated with reducing or stopping medications. It then talks about the challenges associated with being pregnant with RA and gives examples for how to overcome them. The book also gives information and advice about breastfeeding and tips on taking care of a newborn while living with RA. For each of these topics, Suzie provides coping strategies to help you get through any challenges you may face.
My only complaint about the book is that I think it is missing a chapter on conception. Suzie talks in-depth about the process of stopping RA medications and then jumps right into being pregnant with RA. In reality, for most women there is a time in between these two stages where they may struggle with trying to conceive while simultaneously dealing with untreated RA symptoms. I think it would have been useful for the book to include some strategies and support to help get women through the conception stage.
Overall, the book certainly confirmed my suspicions that pregnancy (as well as motherhood) with RA wouldn’t be easy. Suzie takes pains not to sugar coat any of the difficult aspects of the process. However, I think the book manages to provide all this realistic information in a way that still seems encouraging (unlike a lot of the other resources available on this topic). The book helped me conceptualize the potential challenges my husband and I would face in starting a family while managing my RA. And, perhaps most importantly, the book helped me feel less alone. It confirmed my suspicions that becoming a mother would be totally worth it, whatever the difficulties I faced along the way.
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