The RA Pregnancy Chronicles: Sometimes Being Pregnant With Arthritis Is Hard

The RA Pregnancy Chronicles is a series of posts that share my experiences being pregnant while living with RA. This post was written during Week 23 of my second pregnancy.

Sometimes there’s just no way around it: being pregnant while living with arthritis can be really hard.

I am really having a hard time right now. First of all, I have an almost two-year-old son who is running me absolutely ragged, both with his enthusiasm and energy as well as tantrums and crankiness. He has way more energy than I know what to do with most of the time, and lately he has also been so extremely grumpy that I am beginning to suspect he is working on his two-year molars right now.

I am also having a rough second pregnancy. I have been nauseous and vomiting since basically the moment we found out I was pregnant this time around, and though I am well into my second trimester the “morning sickness” hasn’t really let up. I even found myself gagging over the kitchen sink yet again this morning (after which my son announced, “bless you, mommy!” so at least he’s a polite grumpy little dude!)

But honestly the most difficult part everything that is going on right now is my arthritis. Although I did experience some remission during the second trimester of my first pregnancy, I haven’t been that lucky this time around. I’ve been trying to ignore it and deny it for weeks, but unfortunately I don’t think it can be denied any longer: my RA is officially flaring.

Finger joints. Wrists. Elbows. Shoulders. Neck. Hips. Knees. Ankles. Toes. All swollen and stiff and painful to move or touch or use. Not to mention how sore all the muscles between those joints are. I am also waking up with the most extreme morning stiffness I have ever experienced – it feels like I have been run over with a steamroller. And the fatigue (combined from the RA flare, difficult pregnancy, and chasing a toddler) is beyond soul crushing.

I have to admit that I am scared. I’m scared because there aren’t very many pregnancy-safe options to help me deal with all this pain. I’m scared because I am barely halfway through this pregnancy and I’m honestly not sure how I will survive the second half. But I am also terrified that once I do manage to make it to the end of this pregnancy I am going to be in no fit shape to take care of two little boys.

And it is really hard. I feel isolated. Alone. Lonely. Lost. Because I just can’t figure out how to explain what I am going through to anyone else. I have many wonderful mama friends who certainly understand the frustration and exhaustion of caring for a toddler. Some of my friends are even pregnant with their second babies too, so they understand the difficult of dealing with pregnancy symptoms while chasing a toddler. But though I know they love me and want to support me, I don’t feel like they truly understand the frustrating and somewhat terrifying added stress of living with arthritis at the same time.

Because even when I do manage to reach out and ask for help I find that I don’t really know what I expect my friends to say. I know they are doing their very best to support me and make me feel better, but I just don’t think they truly understand. When they say things like “hope you feel better soon” and “this too shall pass” I honestly don’t know how to react. I mean, of course I want to feel better soon. But I am also realistic enough to know that probably isn’t in the cards for me for a good long while. And I do know that things will eventually get better, but that won’t be until I am finished nursing my second baby and able to go back on my meds to get my arthritis under control. What am I supposed to do in the meantime?

I know I am not the only woman in the world to deal with arthritis and pregnancy at the same time, there are so few stories and resources and ways for us to get connected to each other that I still end up feeling very alone. That’s the main reason I feel it is so important to be honest with my RA pregnancy story. Like I said at the beginning of this pregnancy, I can’t promise that my story will always be uplifting. The truth is that sometimes being pregnant with arthritis is downright hard. But I still want to share my story because hopefully someday I will reach someone in my pregnant, achy, miserable shoes – and help them feel less alone.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (8)
  • Carobelle
    4 years ago

    Mariah, Thank you so much for this post, finding it has really helped me feel less alone.
    After blissful remission during the first trimester (coupled with dreadful morning sickness, but at least that was a novelty!) I have had a great big flare up, almost the worse for being entirely unexpected.
    Now 20 weeks, living abroad, in constant pain, having had to cut back on work and feeling lonely, isolated and naturally worried for what lies ahead…
    Unfortunately googling for RA pregnancy flare ups gives a lot of ‘most women find they do not flare up during pregnancy…’ not so helpful as I weep quietly and run yet another hot bath!
    Funny how, although you can provide no solutions, no quick-fixes, just hearing someone else who has gone through it and truly understands it is bizarrely reassuring.
    I hope your body is giving you some respite now you have two little ones to chase!

    Again, thank you for sharing.
    Caro

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Caro ~ I’m so sorry to hear that you are struggling right now, but I know that it helps to hear that others have been through it and survived! Pregnancy can be hard enough all by itself – and adding RA to the mix can just make it more difficult. But at least you are now more than halfway through! And I promise that having your little one will be worth it in the end!! ~;o)

    And as I told Jeanmarie, below, please remember that you are brave and strong for going through so much to have your family! And I support you! This is a topic I feel particularly passionate about, so if you need more support or have additional questions about my experiences please feel free to send a private message: FromThisPoint.Forward@gmail.com.

    In the meantime, you may want to try adding some epsom salts to your bath! Might help!

  • Jeanmarie
    4 years ago

    Hello! I’m not sure how I’ve made it this long before discovering this Website and blog! Thank you! I thought I was the only one who never seemed to have any luck finding the information I wanted online, especially about RA and Pregnancy! I’ve made it through one pregnancy and have a healthy almost-3 year old. I was diagnosed with RA at age 24 (almost 6 years ago). Similarly, I stopped MTX and birth control months before my wedding. Our daughter was born 9 1/2 months after our wedding so we were VERY fortunate in that regard. I had a terrible pregnancy and did not experience any type of remission. I continued taking prednisone and ballooned up to state puff marshmallow size! *smile My husband and I want desperately to have another baby and I am 2 months in to not taking MTX. I am also on Remicade infusions every 4 weeks. We were thinking about starting to try in another month or so… I’m already experiencing terrible flares and am so scared to go through this again but at the same time, know it would be worth it! But, at what cost? My husband is starting to get scared as well and is more hesitant than I am, I think, especially with a toddler running around too! I have a fear of getting halfway through and then having panic attacks because the RA is so bad and there’s still 20 weeks + breast feeding left to go. I didn’t nurse my daughter so that I could get back on treatment right away and I feel like I missed out on such a precious and amazing thing and really would like to try with my second. I’m scared but stubborn. Is it selfish to want to go through another pregnancy at the risk of permanent irreversible joint damage? I don’t think so and you must not either but how do you handle opinions from people who may think that?!

    Thank you so much for your transparency! I feel at peace knowing there is someone else out there who “gets it!”

    JM

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi JM~

    First I want to apologize for my delay in responding to your comment – I am usually much quicker but my second baby was born at the end of July and so life has been a bit crazy adjusting to having two kids! ~;o)

    It sounds like we have very similar stories, and I am so glad that sharing mine – despite the negative aspects – can be useful for you. I had a really rough time with my second pregnancy and, with a 2 year old running around, it certainly was a challenge. My RA flared terribly and I ended up back on Enbrel while pregnant (which you can read about here: http://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/ra-pregnancy-chronicles-balancing-acts-difficult-decisions) But you are right that it is worth it in the end. In fact I am nursing my 6 week old little guy as I type this! ~;o)

    Please remember that you are brave and strong for even considering giving this gift to your family! And I support you! This is a topic I feel particularly passionate about, so if you need more support or have additional questions about my experiences please feel free to send a private message: FromThisPoint.Forward@gmail.com.

    ~Mariah~

  • Wren moderator
    4 years ago

    Oh, Mariah. My heart hurts for you. Though I also have RA, and raised a daughter, I didn’t have symptoms and wasn’t diagnosed until she was 6 years old. My pregnancy was an easy one, but even “easy” pregnancies change how you feel physically day-to-day. I can hardly imagine going through the kind of flare you’re describing here, while at the same time being halfway through your pregnancy AND caring for (read “chasing”) a toddler who’s only recently discovered what his legs are for. OMG.

    I think your honesty is wonderful. I also think you’re very courageous. I breastfed my daughter 32 years ago, so I understand the reasons for it, but I’m not sure I’d be able to do it knowing that my RA couldn’t be treated while I did.

    So I wonder, might you limit the time you breastfeed? Say, to two months or so, so your baby gets the best you can give him early on, and the two of you get to form that lovely, special bond, but so you can also take care of yourself?

    Because I’m worried that while being such a supermom–and kudos to you–you’re neglecting your own health and needs. And if you’re in awful pain, exhausted, and ill, it will be very difficult to take care of two tiny kids.

    If I was there, I’d give you a warm hug, then offer to take your little boy off your hands for the rest of the day so you could get some rest. But I’m not, so I’ll just have to send you a virtual hug instead, and send you fervent wishes for calm, comfort, and quiet joy.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Wren ~ Thank you so much for your understanding and support. It means a lot to me. Regarding breastfeeding I did essentially what you suggest with my first – I nursed him for three months and then stopped to go back on the Enbrel. We will see how things go this time around!

  • Ali
    4 years ago

    Wow. I really applaud you for your honesty. Although I haven’t been pregnant I experienced all you discuss before I was diagnosed and put on meds. I had such bad stiffness that lasted 6-10 hours a day and between that and feeling like I had been hit by a truck I was not in a good place. Thank you for sharing your truth. I know this will help others in your situation.

  • Mariah Z. Leach moderator author
    4 years ago

    Hi Ali ~ Thank you so much for your kind words and support! I hope that you are right that I can help others going through this in the future.

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