Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder, which affects women thrice more often than men, usually in their childbearing age. The decision of having a baby can be difficult for anyone. But when a woman has arthritis, this decision needs extra concern. Arthritis can affect the pregnancy at every stage. However, pregnancy can make either good or bad changes on arthritis in a woman. If a woman suffers fatigue due to arthritis then the stress of pregnancy can make it worse. Similarly, a woman who has back pain, could get worse during pregnancy, as the increase in weight exerts more stress on weight-bearing joints.
Many women with rheumatoid arthritis have considerable improvement in their condition during pregnancy whereas, some women face flare-ups in rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy. Therefore, it is important to consult your doctor to change the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy. Many changes take place in the immune system during pregnancy, which helps the fetus to grow and develop. Some of these changes can help to improve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy.
Most women rely on their doctor during pregnancy, but women suffering from arthritis require continuous consultation with their rheumatologist as well.
Before Planning Pregnancy
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, talk to your doctor about the medicines you are taking before trying to conceive. Some of the medicines can affect an unborn child. Therefore switch to less risky medicines.
In the First Trimester
There are certain medicines that can cause birth defects. If you require medicines to keep your arthritis under control, then your doctor may recommend you corticosteroid, such as prednisone that can decrease the arthritis inflammation but minimally cross through the placenta.
In the Second Trimester
About 70 percent of women experience an improvement in symptoms in the second trimester that lasts for about the first six weeks after delivery.
In the Third Trimester
If your arthritis was mild during the second trimester, then it is susceptible to stay mild during the third trimester. But, fatigue may get worse due to increased body weight.
Labour and Delivery
Rheumatoid arthritis slightly elevates the risk of a premature baby, but it does not raise the risk of having a baby with low birth weight.
Arthritis, which affects hips, may make vaginal delivery very difficult. Therefore, women with arthritis are more prone to deliver by C-section.
Coping up with Rheumatoid Arthritis after Delivery
If you had mild rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy, then there are chances that your disease will get worse again after delivery, at least for a while.
Many women enter remission during pregnancy and remain well even after the birth of a baby. However, some women suffer flare-ups in the months after having a baby. It is a matter of great concern as the medicines can travel to the baby through breast milk.
Talk to your doctor regarding the medicines that you can take during your lactation period if postpartum flare ups arise. Fortunately, with the assistance of knowledge and an healthcare team, most women suffering from arthritis can have successful pregnancies and healthy babies.