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Being a pregnant women and having arthritis can be difficult. This article provides eight tips on coping with pregnancy while having arthritis at the same time

Arthritis, a condition characterized by joint inflammation, is a common disease that affects a large proportion of the elderly population. However, it can also develop in younger patients, and even in women of childbearing age. This is particularly true for rheumatoid arthritis, which is much more common in women than men.

While most women with arthritis have healthy pregnancies and safe deliveries, there are still some factors to consider when it comes to getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy that you should keep in mind.

1. Before you choose to have a child, carefully consider your decision

Bringing a child into this world is an important thing for many women and families. However, consider the facts that:

  • Poorly controlled arthritis that causes severe pain, can often be exacerbated during pregnancy, so the 40 or so weeks of pregnancy can be hard.
  • Furthermore, even after you have given birth, if you have arthritis that limits your mobility, it can be very difficult to look after a small child.

The decision is completely up to you, but it is important to think it through before you make the decision.

2. Eat a healthy diet

Any pregnant woman, whether or not she has arthritis, should make a healthy and well-balanced diet a priority. Their diet should include vegetables and fruits in order to meet all their vitamin and nutrient requirements. Additionally, if you have arthritis, your diet should include foods with high levels of calcium, as many medications for arthritis can cause bones to deteriorate. It is also important to start your day with a healthy breakfast. You need to watch your vitamin intake, particularly if you are taking the steroid prednisone, as you may need to take extra calcium and vitamin D. Furthermore, while there is no established link between arthritis and diet, you may want to avoid eating any foods that make you feel bad and trigger your flares. This can include caffeinated beverages or red meat.

3. Get the help of a registered dietitian to devise a meal guide

Registered dietitians can help develop an individualized plan that is specific to your needs, particularly as a pregnant woman with arthritis. They will tell you the best foods to eat and which ones to avoid.

4. Lose weight after pregnancy

It is best to keep your body at a healthy weight if you have arthritis, because having extra weight adds extra pressure on your joints, which can worsen your condition and the symptoms you suffer from. The ideal way to lose weight after you are pregnant is not to have much too much lose in the first place — by not gaining too much weight during your pregnancy. Physicians consider 25 to 35 pounds a safe amount of weight to gain during pregnancy.

Additionally, after you give birth, try to start exercising as that is a great way to lose weight and maintain the weight loss. Though breastfeeding, if you choose to do so, burns some additional calories each day, overweight women will want to consider a healthy and responsible restricted calorie diet, too.

5. Stay focused on the prize

Being pregnant can be very hard on women’s bodies and there are some days that are going to be much harder than others. Being pregnant and having a chronic disease will require a lot of strength and determination on your end. However, the best way to get through this is to stay focused on the prize at the end, which will be your child. Your newborn will make all the pain and discomfort you endure worth it.

6. Work on your relationship with your partner

Pregnancy can sometimes put a strain on relationships, and this can be further exacerbated by the addition of a chronic illness, such as arthritis. Make sure to be in constant communication with your partner, recognize their needs, and give them the opportunity to talk about any issues they may be having. Communicate your own needs well, because that will make it easier for your partner to support you during this time.

7. Accept support from friends and family

Being a new mother is hard, and it is important to have a close network of family and friends that can help you as you need it. Call them if you need help, whether it is an issue with your baby, your pregnancy or your arthritis. Do not be afraid to ask for help and don’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. Chances are, they will be more than happy to help.

8. Watch your medications carefully

Some medications are not safe for consumption either during pregnancy or when you are breastfeeding. Therefore, if you have a flare during pregnancy or right after, talk to your doctors about what are the safe medications that can control your arthritis but won’t harm the baby.

  • Nelson, J. Lee, and Monika Østensen. "Pregnancy and rheumatoid arthritis." Rheumatic disease clinics of North America 23.1 (1997): 195-212.
  • De Man, Yael A., et al. "Disease activity of rheumatoid arthritis during pregnancy: results from a nationwide prospective study." Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology 59.9 (2008): 1241-1248.
  • Da Silva, J. A. P., and T. D. Spector. "The role of pregnancy in the course and aetiology of rheumatoid arthritis." Clinical rheumatology 11.2 (1992): 189-194.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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