While many women with arthritis experience fewer arthritic symptoms during pregnancy than usual, some women experience a heightening of symptoms. If you fall into this second category, there are 3 things you should know about finding pain relief and keeping you and your developing fetus healthy: medication and exercise can greatly improve your prenatal experience, and certain warning signs can help you know when to seek extra help from your rheumatologist.
1. Safe Medication is Available
A major concern expectant women have when dealing with chronic disease such as arthritis is what medication is safe to take when pregnant. Thankfully, there are both prescription and over-the-counter medications that can help relieve arthritis symptoms without risking harm to you or your baby. The best way to treat arthritis is to work closely with your obstetrician and your rheumatologist to ensure that the right symptoms are being treated in a manner that's safe. Some medications you might expect to try include the following:
- Various Prescription: A variety of prescription drugs have been tested for safety during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. These include sulfasalazine and infliximab.
- Corticosteroids: Safest in late pregnancy, corticosteroids are used to relieve arthritis.
- Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: These medications are available over-the-counter and include aspirin and naproxen. Discuss with your rheumatologist a safe frequency and dose during pregnancy, because it is likely different than what you took before you conceived.
2. Exercises To Help Strengthen Joints
There is an abundance of exercise videos and routines to choose from when pregnant. While pregnancy-focused regimes are safe for you and your infant, some are more prone to aggravate your arthritis, and others will help strengthen your joints and relieve arthritic inflammations. What you should focus on at this time is relaxing, stretching, and strengthening your joints in preparation to carry and deliver a healthy child. You probably don't need anything strenuous like a high-intensity cardio workout. While some expectant mothers do enjoy these workouts, they can put too much stress on your joints and increase inflammation. Consider these types of workouts instead:
- Yoga: Yoga is all about relaxation and strength. Consistently doing these routines will strengthen the joints and muscles in your lower body to ease pain throughout your pregnancy. Look for a workout that is broken down by trimester, since the first and second trimester routines will focus mostly on strength and breathing. In the third trimester, increased flexibility exercises are designed to open the cervix to make labor and delivery a better experience.
- Swimming: Swimming takes the direct baby weight off your body and strengthens your muscles and joints. Don't focus on getting a certain time on your laps, simply relax and swim the length of the pool while thinking about your infant.
3. Signs of Extra Stress in a Body
Your growing belly causes a lot of stress on your lower back and hips. If arthritis is in your hips or knees, it's likely that you'll experience extra discomfort due to the pressure put on them. While some pain is expected, you should see your rheumatologist when you experience the following:
- Difficulty Walking: If your joints are constantly inflamed, feel locked up, or giving out on you, you need to see your rheumatologist for medication and exercise suggestions. Risk of falling and hurting your child increases when your arthritis flares up.
- Drastic Changes in Appetite: While it's common – especially in the first trimester – to feel nauseated and have little appetite while pregnant, you should maintain a nutritious diet as much as is in your power. An unusual symptom women with arthritis may experience is dry mouth and difficulty swallowing during pregnancy. This can greatly reduce your ability to eat right, and you should talk to your doctors about treating it.
- Swelling Joints: Swelling joints are a main indicator of preeclampsia, and women with arthritis are at higher risk of developing this condition. Other symptoms include dizziness, difficulty urinating, and high blood pressure. If untreated, it can develop into a condition that puts your infant's life at risk.
If your arthritis is flaring up during pregnancy, there is a lot you can do to relieve symptoms. Keep these 3 things in mind as you progress in your pregnancy, and you should have a positive, healthy experience. For more information, contact a professional arthritis facility, such as Arthritis & Rheumatology Associates of South Jersey.