Trying to Conceive During My RA Diagnosis

Smack dab in the middle of our long trying to conceive journey, the root of my chronic pain was given a name: rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

I was totally shocked that after all these years of joint pain, I actually had an autoimmune disease to blame.

Trying to conceive with RA

Even while being thankful for an official diagnosis, the news came as a blow.

What did my new RA diagnosis mean in terms of trying for another baby? Was there a way to treat my pain AND continue fertility treatments? I wasn’t sure as there were so many variables in play in our story.

Thankfully, I have a five-star rheumatologist who was well-versed in reproductive decisions while managing RA who helped us navigate this time as a couple.

How does RA affect pregnancy?

Fortunately, most women with RA can successfully conceive and go on to have a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth.1

Medications and RA disease activity

It is not very well understood if having RA has any serious effect on fertility. Research suggests women who have higher disease activity and more use of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and steroids may take longer to conceive than women without RA.2

That’s why it was very important to begin medication and get my pain and inflammation under control to put us in the healthiest position to conceive.

Would my RA pain get better or worse?

A very strange phenomenon occurred in my last pregnancy: I was absolutely pain-free.

I always thought this was a weird occurrence since pregnancy is a time when most women start complaining of aches and pains. However, not me. As soon as I got pregnant with my son, my daily aches and joint pain essentially disappeared.

At the time, I had no idea that because of immune system changes during pregnancy, it was a common occurrence in women with RA.

Remission during pregnancy

My remission in pregnancy was one of the first points I made at my initial rheumatology appointment that made the doctor think I had RA.

She explained that about half of women with RA have an improvement in symptoms during pregnancy. It’s also an opportunity for women to decrease their medication used to treat RA if their pain is being managed in this period of remission.2

This was all very reassuring to me that I could have another pain-free pregnancy knowing I did fabulous in my first one. Now, I understood this bizarre occurrence was actually a minor perk of being pregnant while living with RA.

Which medications were safe?

My main concern after finding out I had RA was if there were medications I could take to help my pain while still continuing to try to conceive. I just couldn’t imagine being pain-free but at the cost of completing our family. I also knew I couldn’t continue living in pain with the lower quality of life I was experiencing.

I started Plaquenil almost immediately and was reassured by my rheumatologist that it was safe in pregnancy as the benefits outweigh the risks.

However, she did warn me there were medications that were not safe in pregnancy and could cause birth defects or miscarriage such as methotrexate and leflunomide.1

Always talk to your doctor

It’s important to talk to your doctor if you are taking medication for RA and planning to become pregnant.

Maybe it was good timing to be diagnosed in the middle of fertility treatments as I felt I got a very thorough informational session about the important things to consider when trying to get pregnant with RA.

Thankful for the care I have received

In the end, we did finally conceive at a time when my RA was well-managed and I felt my quality of life has improved exponentially. I’m thankful for my diagnosis and the care I have received since it’s undoubtedly made me a healthier and happy mom-to-be-again.

Have you thought about conceiving with RA? How was your experience during and after pregnancy? Share with us below!

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