We asked six mums with arthritis, from Arthur’s Social, what advice they would share with women thinking about starting a family in the future. This is what they told us:
“One thing I found was at a certain point in your relationship, whether you have a health condition or not, people will always ask ‘when are you having a baby?’ Whether you want one or not!
“When I was first diagnosed, having a baby did not seem possible. I told my friends and family that I may not be able to have them and that actually made things a bit easier, as I didn’t feel the social pressure of the dreaded ‘when are you having a baby’ question coming up. It also meant that I could work out what I wanted to do (and my partner as well obviously) and then take the next steps forwards.
“Some people like to talk about these things with family or friends but personally it meant that I had time to process what I wanted to do without having other people’s opinions on top.
“I also had a list of ideas of what I would do if I couldn’t have a baby – would I adopt, foster or do something completely different like travel or try and get promoted at work. Trying to work these things out, and also what your partner wants, are all things to think about.”
“I’d say if you don’t have a consultant that is onboard with your desire to have a family don’t be afraid to ask to see someone else. Mine helped me get on the right medication to control my RA, but also one I could stay on while pregnant and while breastfeeding.
“I’m still breastfeeding now at 16 months. The meds seem to have lost their effect, but he hasn’t advised me to stop nursing. Instead, he’s found me another med to move to, so I can continue. His support has been invaluable to me. So, ask to be moved if you are not happy.”
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“If you can, make sure that you will have support around you when you start a family. I waited years for the perfect moment to start a family and then found myself with no support as we moved across the country and stupidly thought that whilst I was out of work, and new to the area, it was an opportunity to start a family, whilst I had spare time!!!
“It is hard without support. I suffered pre-natal depression with my second and no one talks about being depressed whilst pregnant! I just remember people being jolly and I was having the worst time of my life. I’m all better now.
“For us suffering with arthritis, our care whilst pregnant and those early months should come with extra support from health visitors. Luckily, I had an excellent health visitor who I am still in touch with now. We became really good friends. I so needed that.”
“I’d definitely try to talk about your desire to have a family with your rheumatology team as early on as possible so it can be taken into account when changing any of your medication.
“At my hospital there’s a specialist antenatal rheumatology team who my husband and I went to talk to before we were even planning to start trying for a baby just to see what was what (which was a good job as our little girl was a surprise!).
“They answered all my questions, like – ‘What happens if I have an epic flare up and can’t look after the baby on my own?’ ‘What are my options for birth?’ etc. They then saw me throughout my pregnancy and immediately after she was born so I was with a team I’d met before.
“I’d assumed it would be hard to fall pregnant and that pregnancy and birth would be a nightmare because of my arthritis (my body doesn’t work most of the time, why would it suddenly start working where a baby’s concerned?). Everyone’s different of course but for me, it was all much easier and smoother than expected so don’t always assume the worst.”
“I agree with the comments about discussing family plans with your rheumatologist as early as possible. My husband and I saw a maternal medicine specialist even before we started trying to conceive so we were both aware of which meds were safe and other concerns/risks. I then saw a great maternal medicine team throughout my pregnancy as well as my usual rheumatologist.”
“I found it really helpful to talk to my consultant and plan for pregnancy in advance. In addition to speaking to my consultant, who was very helpful, I was able to attend a joint rheumatology/obstetrics clinic. I found out which treatment options could be used in pregnancy and planned to change my medication before trying to conceive.
“Knowing that there was medication I could use if my arthritis flared, and that there were different options, including biologics, that I could use while pregnant, gave me a lot more confidence that I could cope with being pregnant and looking after a baby afterwards!”
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