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The Journey of Pregnancy and Chronic Pain

rach_whatapainrach_whatapain Member Posts: 1 Listener
edited August 2019 in Guest blogs

My name is Rachel, I’m 30 years old and live in the North East of England. I’m married to my best friend Dave and I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant with our first child. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and Trigeminal Neuralgia and I write a blog called What a Pain. I write about all aspects of life with chronic illness, disability discrimination and being chronically ill and pregnant.

When Dave and I first got married we knew we wanted to wait a few years to have children. We were only twenty-five and felt like we had so much time to play with. I was fit and healthy the day we got married but just weeks after our wedding my battle with RA began.


Once we reached thirty, we decided the time was right to start a family. However, the decision to have children was no longer straight forward. Chronic illness threw so much into question and we knew pregnancy, and being a mum, would have a big impact on my health. We had so many things to consider, but ultimately, we decided we still wanted a family, during this time I wrote about how to decide to have children when you’re chronically ill.

We found out I was pregnant when I was only four weeks along. We were so excited but absolutely terrified at the same time. We felt everything I imagine every other first-time parent feels, but we also had some additional fears. How would my health impact on my pregnancy and how would my pregnancy impact my health?

The first week of pregnancy was great, and then it rapidly went downhill when I began suffering with hyperemesis which is an extreme form of vomiting and nausea in pregnancy. The condition landed me in hospital numerous times, and coupled with my RA symptoms, I was barely able to get out of bed. Thankfully my hyperemesis symptoms are now well controlled with medication. Sadly, the same cannot be said for my RA.

I had hoped that my RA would go into remission with pregnancy, as it does for many people, but sadly it wasn’t to be. My pain has improved in some joints but is much worse in my hips and spine. Now I am in my second trimester my bump is beginning to weigh on those joints and I’m under the care of an obstetrician and pregnancy physiotherapist, as well as a midwife and my rheumatologist. Some days it feels like all I do is attend medical appointments, but I understand it is necessary because the nature of my condition.

Being pregnant is tough, your body is undergoing huge changes and frankly it’s exhausting growing a human being. However, when you add chronic pain and fatigue it can be really challenging. It does impact my mental health, and some days I wonder how I’ll get through these next four months. I have been prepared by my medical professionals to expect the last few months to be particularly rough. The bigger this baby gets, the bigger the pressure on my already failing joints. I’ve also been warned that being induced early is likely to be necessary in order to have a natural birth. This is because labouring requires my mobility to be at a good level, so labour needs to be induced before my joint pain renders me immobile. I will be regularly monitored from 30 weeks onwards to see how big the baby is getting, and decisions will be made based on how my pain levels and mobility are.


Having RA has had a huge impact on my pregnancy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I cannot wait to welcome this baby, and the challenges are so worth it. I don’t know what the long-term effects of birth will be on my joints but right now I’m taking it day by day and focusing on the positives. We are so fortunate to be having this baby, and I have an incredible support network around me.

Having a disability doesn’t mean I’ll be any less capable as a mother, it just means we need to plan well. My RA is likely to flare up badly a few weeks after birth and I will need some extra help during that period. Thankfully we have family close by and no shortage of friends to support us should we need it. I also have the most fantastic medical professionals to make sure I have everything I need to manage my symptoms after birth.

Pain and fatigue do impact on pregnancy, it’s sadly unavoidable. However, it isn’t all bad and the baby at the end will be worth every challenging day.

Has chronic pain altered an aspect of your life? How do you adapt things? Let us know in the comments below!

Replies

  • April2018momApril2018mom Member - under moderation Posts: 2,882 Member - under moderation
    This is interesting to read. I had really bad nerve pain that mysteriously resolved itself prior to my pregnancy. I definitely agree. Having family and friends who care also made all the difference in my coping skills. We discussed our options and decided to try medication. There are many different ways of managing pain. My partner and boss were also supportive. This is part of why I want to be a qualified art therapist. 
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Member Posts: 7,732 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you SO much for sharing this @rach_whatapain It is something that just isn't discussed!! 
    I am a mum of three and I have a chronic illness and I can tell you that RA won't make you any less capable mother. Being a mum with a chronic illness does have it's challenges but I truly believe that my illness has made my kids into more empathetic, caring and kinder people.

    Your "normal" may be different to other people's "normal" but that doesn't make it wrong.

    Best of luck for the rest of your pregnancy!! Rest up and get ready for the brilliant times ahead x

    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,664 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for writing such a great piece @rach_whatapain!

    You've touched on such an important topic and I'm sure you'll be an amazing mum! Please do let us know how you get on :)
    Community Partner
    Scope

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  • DavidMDavidM Member Posts: 20 Courageous
    Interesting piece, @rach_whatapain good luck with it.
    Do be aware that here at Remap we provide bespoke solutions for disabled mums. If you need anything to help you with your baby and can't find the right gadget or piece of equipment, we'll design and make it for you (free of charge of course!) For example we helped Danielle connect a trailer to her scooter, and another mum connect a buggy to her wheelchair. Other fixes might be simple things around the home. Whatever you need, do give us a shout https://www.remap.org.uk/
  • veritercveriterc Community champion Posts: 192 Pioneering
    Brilliant insight - thanks for this. You mention hospital appointments, and these can take up a huge chunk of the day.  It would be helpful if hospitals could work with those of us with multiple conditions, as it's an hour's journey to hospital for me, sometimes three times a week.  I tried to get appointments on the same day, but the John Radcliffe hospital is spread across a wide area, and hospital transport say "you're not allowed to have more than one appointment a day".  I think what they mean is they don't want to transfer me across from one site to another.  What a waste of NHS resources, and our time!
  • mirandavedamirandaveda Member Posts: 1 Listener
    Hi Rachel, I’m 29 suffering with RA since 25 and have a 6 month old daughter. I also had hyperemises during my pregnancy and really relate to what you said about mental health in those days and the worries of coping through the pregnancy and beyond. My experience was tough to start but my symptoms really calmed in the last trimester and the first three months of having baby. Your body and hormones can do amazing things and no one can predict your experience. Doctors always saw the worse case scenario for me and that really got me down. It won’t always be a walk in the park but you WILL manage and you can do it. I loved pregnancy so much by the end compared to all the worry and struggle at the start. Hoping you find some hope in this :)
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,664 Disability Gamechanger
    Thank you for sharing this @mirandaveda and a very warm welcome to the community!
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    Scope

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