Pregnancy marks a beginning of a new chapter in your life when you’re about to start a family with your significant other. However, this chapter is characterized by a wide array of symptoms that aren’t easy to deal with. There’s morning sickness, fatigue, breast tenderness, heartburn, etc. Experiencing different pregnancy symptoms can be frustrating, but having arthritis or some other type of joint and tissue damage makes it even more unbearable. To make sure you spend more time enjoying your pregnancy and less time in pain, this article will provide useful advice on how to tackle and deal with 4 common types of arthritis and joint or tissue damage. Let’s start.
1. Ankylosing spondylitis and pregnancy
Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease which causes vertebrae in your spine to fuse together thus making spine less flexible and causing hunched posture. In some cases, the disease affects ribs and makes it difficult to breathe. Although men are more prone to this disease, women can be affected as well.
Scientists are still not able to determine the underlying cause of ankylosing spondylitis, but it is believed the factors are genetic. This inflammatory disease is indicated by the pain and stiffness in lower back and hips.
Pregnant women who are diagnosed with this disease have equal chances of having ankylosing spondylitis improve, worsen, or stay the same through pregnancy week by week.
According to Arthritis.org, although this disease doesn’t affect the baby, it does affect the baby’s delivery. Spinal inflammation or fusion might make it difficult for doctor to perform epidural.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but you can manage disease in numerous ways and relieve the pain. Here are a few tips that you will find beneficial:
- Stop smoking (it’s bad for your own and baby’s health, plus it affects mobility of rib cage)
- Regulate the temperature in your bedroom in order to get adequate sleep
- AS increases your risk for anemia, which is why you should do a blood test to make sure everything is okay
- Make sure you don’t gain more weight than recommended for different stage of pregnancy
- Make sure your diet contains whole grains rather than processed and refined foods
- Taking short walks is beneficial for pregnant women with AS.
2. Rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common types of arthritis. It is a chronic inflammatory disease which usually affects small joints in hands and feet. RA affects the lining of your joints thus causing a painful swelling which can eventually lead to bone erosion and deformity. Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Tender, swollen and warm joints
- Morning stiffness that lasts for hours
- Firm bumps of tissue under the skin of your arms
- Fatigue, weight loss, and fever.
During the first trimester of your pregnancy, it is important to consult your doctor about medications you’re using because some drugs like leflunomide, methotrexate, and cyclophosphamide can cause birth defects. Furthermore, pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue may worsen in women with RA.
Luckily, during the second trimester of pregnancy, most women report improved symptoms of RA and decreased joint pain. This happens due to anti-inflammatory cytokines and hormonal changes.
In the third trimester of the pregnancy RA symptoms are still mild (if they were mild throughout the pregnancy). However, your fatigue could worsen.
Here are a few tips that will help you deal with this type of arthritis joint pain during pregnancy:
- Use hot treatments to reduce stiffness and ice packs to alleviate the pain of affected joints
- Eat Omega 3’s fatty acids
- Perform low impact exercises
- Meditate, practice yoga
- Opt for Mediterranean diet
- Don’t engage in vigorous physical activities
- Get some quality sleep
- Make sure you eat a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
- Take a warm bath or a shower
- Get a massage.
3. Scleroderma and Pregnancy
Scleroderma is defined as a group of diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues. It is caused by overproduction of collagen in tissues and characterized by the following symptoms:
- Hardening and tightening skin patches
- Numbness, pain, and color change in fingers and toes
- Problems absorbing nutrients etc.
Although it is assumed scleroderma is more pronounced during pregnancy, this assumption is widely debated. Just like with RA, during the first trimester, it is important to consult your doctor about medications you should be using.
It’s important to bear in mind that scleroderma doesn’t affect the baby, but pregnant women are at risk of developing high blood pressure due to this disease in late stages of the second trimester. Preeclampsia is also present in the third trimester which is why doctors recommend rest, primarily in hospital.
Tips for dealing with scleroderma during pregnancy include:
- Get enough sleep
- Avoid foods that trigger heartburn
- Protect yourself from the cold
- Quit smoking (it’s a bad habit anyway)
- Avoid or learn to manage stress
- Make sure you’re physically active
- Consult your doctor if you experience symptoms of preeclampsia (sharp abdominal pain, rapid weight gain, severe headaches, little to no urine output, dizziness, excessive vomiting and nausea).
4. Sjorgen’s syndrome and pregnancy
Sjogren’s syndrome is a disorder of your immune system indicated by the most recognizable symptoms such as dry mouth and dry eyes. Other symptoms of this syndrome include:
- Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Skin rash
- Dry cough
- Vaginal dryness.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder which means that your immunity attacks your own body’s cells and tissues. If you have this type of arthritis, your doctor will most likely want to monitor your baby by fetal echocardiogram which is a procedure that uses ultrasound waves to view the action of the baby’s heart as it beats.
Your healthcare provider will monitor your baby throughout your pregnancy in case he or she detects a heart block which might necessitate early delivery. It is important to bear in mind that women with Sjogren’s syndrome generally give birth to healthy babies without birth defects.
Below, you can see some tips to tackle Sjorgen’s syndrome for a more peaceful pregnancy:
- Use eye drops
- Increase humidity in your home
- Drink a lot of fluid
- Stimulate saliva flow with sugar-free gums
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule
- Work with physical therapist to improve joint flexibility
- Use assisting devices such as jar openers
- Practice relaxation techniques.
The most important thing about different forms of arthritis is that they usually do not affect health and wellbeing of your baby. However, delivery can be tough for women with arthritis which is why the best thing to do is to consult your obstetrician about the ideal method. Practice relaxation techniques, get some rest but also avoid being inactive for a longer period of time. Before deciding to take medications, make sure you consult your doctor in the first trimester to make sure they won’t affect your bundle of joy.