The RA Pregnancy Chronicles: My Second Pregnancy Begins
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 4 of my second pregnancy.
Many years ago, my husband and I got stranded in Mississippi because a wheel practically fell off the tent trailer we were towing. Repair of our broken wheel required the mechanic to use a blowtorch to cut through the wheel’s lug nuts, then he had to solder on new nuts and bolts in such a way that the wheel would still turn. When the mechanic finally returned our tent trailer to us, we asked him how it went. He replied: “it weren’t no easy task!”
This sentiment basically sums up how I felt the first time I contemplated getting pregnant while living with RA. Pregnancy is almost never easy, but having a safe pregnancy while living with RA can be more complicated than you might think.
In order to safely conceive my first baby, I had to spend months and months without the medications that were keeping my RA symptoms under control. Without those medications I had to figure out how to deal with pain, stiffness, and fatigue while simultaneously trying to conceive a baby. Once pregnant, RA can unfortunately increase the chances of some pregnancy complications. Then, once you get through nine months of pregnancy, you need to be prepared to care for a newborn during the post-birth flare. There’s also the need to stay off most RA medications if you want to breastfeed your baby. All in all, there are a lot of things to consider! Surviving pregnancy with RA is no easy task!
Unfortunately, when it comes to finding information about RA and pregnancy there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of positive, supportive, or helpful information out there – at least in my experience. The first time I Googled “RA and pregnancy” I was met with the following discouraging information within the first three minutes of looking:
- “Rheumatoid Arthritis Tied To Pregnancy Complications”
- “Rheumatoid Arthritis Study: High Disease Activity During Pregnancy Associated With Lower Birth Weight”
- “Women With Lupus And Rheumatoid Arthritis Have Greater Pregnancy Complications”
- “Deciding whether to have a baby is even more complicated if you have RA, because you must deal daily with physical pain and limitation.”
- “Most RA drugs aren’t safe during pregnancy and some stay in your system for a long time after you stop taking them. Some can affect an unborn child from the very earliest days of pregnancy.”
- “Even if you are lucky enough that your RA goes into remission during pregnancy, the improved symptoms do not continue after the pregnancy is over. RA often comes roaring back a week or two after childbirth.”
There’s no doubt about it: pregnancy is hard. And the reality is that having RA only makes it harder. But the fact that there are so few useful resources about RA and pregnancy only makes the whole experience even more difficult, because you just don’t know what to expect or where to turn for help.
I know that I can’t be the only one out there looking for these resources. There are 1.3 million people in the United States living with RA, and 70% of them are women, a large percentage of whom are still in their childbearing years and may want to start families. Not to mention that there are 300,000 children growing up with juvenile arthritis, most of whom are girls. Arthritis affects our lives and our futures, and our children’s futures.
It is for all of these women and girls that I want to share my pregnancy stories with the world. I shared stories from my first pregnancy on my own blog, From This Point. Forward. Having just found out that I am pregnant with my second baby, I am excited to share stories from my second pregnancy on RheumatoidArthritis.net. I can’t promise that my story will always be uplifting, but I can promise that my story will be honest. And though it may not be an easy task, I can promise that I will show it is possible (and wonderful!) to start a family while living with RA.