Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pregnancy: Managing Flare-ups

The thought of going through pregnancy can be daunting, even when you’re in the best of health. But it requires special atten

If you’re considering having a baby, you’re probably worried about morning sickness, childbirth, or which diapers to stock up on. But when you have rheumatoid arthritis, several other concerns are probably top of your mind, too.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease affecting your joints. Not only can it cause swelling and stiffening, but it can also lead to loss of joint function, pain, and fatigue. Since these symptoms are also common in pregnancy, it can be difficult to discern which condition is causing your discomfort.

At West County Rheumatology, leading board-certified rheumatologist Sona Kamat, MD,  and our team can help you manage your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms in a comfortable and relaxed setting, whether you’re pregnant or not. 

Here’s what you need to know about RA and how to have a healthy, pain-free pregnancy.

Rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy

Anyone can get rheumatoid arthritis, but it’s most common in women and typically diagnosed in your 20s and 30s. While this timing can complicate your family-planning, it doesn’t have to end your dreams of having children.

The bad news is that you have a slightly higher risk of certain pregnancy complications when you have RA, like 

It can also be a little harder to conceive. But Dr. Kamat can help with these issues if you decide to become pregnant.

The good news is that rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t appear to harm a developing baby, and at least 50% of women notice an improvement of their RA symptoms while pregnant. That’s possibly due to hormones and immune system changes, which even help 20-40% of women achieve complete remission by their third trimester. 

Unfortunately, 20% of women experience severe or worsened RA symptoms during pregnancy, and this rate jumps to 90% after delivery. 

Fortunately, with advanced planning, you can reduce your risk of complications and keep your symptoms under control during and after your pregnancy.

Managing RA symptoms during and after pregnancy

In an ideal world, Dr. Kamat recommends having your RA symptoms under control for at least 3-6 months before becoming pregnant. She also suggests following these steps as soon as you decide to — or become — pregnant.

Schedule an appointment with your rheumatologist

Medications play a significant role in managing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. But some may not be safe to take before and during pregnancy, so you should discontinued them for at least three months before conception. 

Dr. Kamat can help determine which medications are safe for your use and whether their benefits outweigh their potential risks. It’s also common for your rheumatologist and OB/GYN to work together to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.

Have a plan to resume your medications

Because most women experience postpartum RA flare-ups within the first three months, especially after their first pregnancy, Dr. Kamat often recommends restarting or updating your medications within a week or two of delivery. 

While you won’t be pregnant anymore, these medications can carry similar risks to your baby if you breastfeed. You can still breastfeed if you have RA, but Dr. Kamat can help determine which medications are safest to use while keeping your RA symptoms under control.

To learn more about managing your RA symptoms during pregnancy, contact us in St. Louis, Missouri, today by calling or by booking through our online tool.

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