Pregnancy and arthritis: tips for new mums

20 October 2020
Hannah pregnant with her partner and with her baby.
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Planning to have a baby is a major milestone in a person’s life and when you have arthritis there is more to consider.

This includes potentially making changes to your medication and finding ways which will help make daily tasks easier for you when your baby arrives.

Hannah shares her personal experience of pregnancy and advice she’d give to others. Also, you can check out tips from other mums with arthritis to help make your life a little easier.

Hannah’s story

Hannah has inflammatory arthritis and was diagnosed in her late twenties. She shares some of the challenges she faced when trying for a baby.

Note, there are many safe drugs available to take when you are pregnant. It’s never too early to start the conversation with your doctor so that you can get on the right treatment plan. If you have any questions about your medication you should speak to your doctor for further advice. Read more about pregnancy and arthritis.

“Arthritis shouldn’t stop you from living the life you always imagined.”

I was told that arthritis being active can affect your chances of getting pregnant. I was on sulfasalazine, but it wasn’t working, so they suggested I get the disease under control for a year with methotrexate and then come off it for three months before trying for a baby.

This could mean waiting another year and a half before trying for a baby and that was only if the methotrexate worked. The consultant told me ‘’you need to get your disease under control before you consider starting a family’’ I refused it and I left the room in tears.

“Was I right to refuse the methotrexate?”

Should I have accepted it from the beginning? If I had, I would be ready to come off it now and start trying for a baby.

Will the active disease stop me from conceiving?

My head was frazzled and I had convinced myself I would never conceive naturally. I was majorly stressed and even started looking into adoption.

We got married two days before my 30th birthday in May 2019. We had the most beautiful day. Dosed up on a steroid injection and prednisolone, I was able to enjoy every moment. But this is when my stress levels maxed out.

“I had put so much pressure on myself to get pregnant and it wasn’t happening.”

The advice was, ‘’Try not to think about it... You won’t get pregnant if you’re stressed’’’. Easier said than done when you want something so bad.

In August, we took off on our honeymoon to New York and the Caribbean and I told Kirk we weren’t going to think about it anymore, we were just going to enjoy our holidays.

With a different focus, I relaxed immediately. I wanted to enjoy our first year of marriage as the two of us. Well, it must have made a difference because a month later I was pregnant. Neither of us could believe it.

He would disagree but I think in my stress I convinced him it wasn’t going to happen too.

“Everyone’s journey is different.”

My aim isn’t to encourage people to refuse medication. Looking back maybe I should have got my disease under control before trying to conceive but that is a decision, I had to make for myself.

My advice to anyone reading this would be: demand answers, stay informed, and use the help available from organisations such as Versus Arthritis.

Be in control of your medication. It’s your condition and you have the right to choose your path but use the expertise of those around you.

Tips from mums with arthritis

What gadgets could help me at home?

  • Get a baby chair or rocker. They help me comfort my baby without hurting my arms and back.
  • Buy a cot which you can adjust the height of, so you don’t have to lean over too far.
  • Find simple ‘pull on’ clothes. Also see if you can get some baby grows with zips instead of poppers. It’s the worst when you've got wriggling child and then you realise you've missed one!

Any ideas on where to start with joining a baby group?

  • If you want to go to a baby group but are feeling worried, contact the leader and explain your situation. Baby classes are often conducted on the floor, so don’t feel embarrassed to ask for a chair or table.
  • Baby swimming classes can be a great way to bond with the little one and spend time with other parents. The warm water is also very soothing on aching joints.
  • Remember to ask for help from friends and family - don't feel you have to do everything by yourself.

Some days I feel overwhelmed, what might help?

  • Try to get out and about as much as possible. Walking the dog and keeping active was the best thing for me, both during and after the pregnancy.
  • Keep a gratitude journal for each day - even if it's just something small like 'had a lovely cuppa' or 'had a relaxing shower' it may help you focus on something other than your condition.
  • Only do what you can manage - yes, lots of other mums might be out and about, doing a different baby class every day, but you may not feel physically or emotionally able to and that's okay.

VIDEO: Mums share their experiences

In this video, we hear from mums about their experiences of living with arthritis and starting a family.

This includes practical advice, decisions about medication and why it’s important to keep the conversation going with the people around you.

Pregnancy, fertility, and arthritis

Find out more information about planning for a baby, medication, labour and read Stacy’s story.

If you've been affected by miscarriage, get in touch with the Miscarriage Association for more information and support.

Help and support