Family Planning, Pregnancy and Parenting with Rheumatic Diseases
Every parent wants to do everything possible to ensure a healthy baby, smooth pregnancy and safe delivery. If you are living with a rheumatic disease like rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) or others, you probably have more questions and concerns about starting a family than otherwise healthy parents.
Common questions from those in this situation include:
- Will my disease affect my fertility and make it harder to conceive?
- Will my medications affect my baby’s health or development?
- What should I do if I have an unplanned pregnancy while on medications for my condition?
- Will my disease raise my risk of pregnancy complications?
- Will pregnancy affect my immune system, and if so, how?
- Will my disease make my delivery more complicated?
- Will I feel well enough for pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding or caring for my new baby?
- Will my arthritis flare if I stop my meds during pregnancy, triggering joint damage or severe pain?
- Can I start taking my arthritis treatments after delivery, or do I have to hold off if I want to breastfeed?
- Will I be able to breastfeed?
- Will my kids also have my rheumatic disease?
All of these questions are very important, but one thing you should know now that will help you put your mind at ease is: People who have rheumatic diseases often have safe, uneventful pregnancies. They can adapt their lives to have healthy babies. They breastfeed their babies and care for them just as any other parent does. Their children grow up to lead healthy, active, full lives. It might not always be easy, but it is possible.
However, RA, PsA, AS, lupus and other rheumatic diseases like antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) can increase your risk of complications during pregnancy. Some medications for rheumatic diseases can harm a foetus and cause birth defects if you are taking them when you conceive or during the early parts of your pregnancy. And having a rheumatic disease or living with its effects, like joint damage or pain, can make pregnancy or caring for your baby more challenging.
Therefore, it is a good idea to gather reliable information and start planning before you start your family if possible.
There are three basic stages to consider: family planning, pregnancy and parenting with arthritis. Having access to information and support throughout these stages can remove some of the anxiety those with a serious illness may face, which can allow more time spent enjoying this exciting new chapter!
In this guide, you will find practical tips and resources to help you find your way through the stages of pregnancy while managing your condition.
Disclaimer: This information should never replace the information and advice from your treating doctors. It is meant to inform the discussion that you have with healthcare professionals, as well as others who play a role in your care and well-being.