rheumatoid arthritis pregnancy

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pregnancy

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and you’re thinking of becoming pregnant, you’re probably wondering what kind of effect gestation will have on the condition. You’re probably all too familiar with the symptoms of the disease outside of pregnancy, which include stiff joints and a decreased range of motion. Amazingly, pregnancy will actually alleviate your symptoms. If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant and you have RA, know that your pregnancy will not be hindered by your symptoms. In fact, your pregnancy might improve them. 

Symptoms May Improve During Pregnancy

In a recent study, 63% of women with RA who were tested reported an improvement in their symptoms during pregnancy. Their joints were less stiff, their range of motion was improved, and all other associated symptoms were relieved. Researchers have been trying to find out why pregnancy has these effects on RA for decades, and no definite conclusion has been reached. However, there are some reasonable estimates based on evidence.

Some studies suggest the symptoms of RA might be decreased because of the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy. When you become pregnant, your body produces an increased level of estrogen and progestin. Others show that the decreased levels of neutrophil might be behind the pain relief. Neutrophils are white blood cells that have an important role in the immune system, which is directly related to RA.

Postpartum Period May Mark Return of Symptoms

Unfortunately, these same studies also suggest that RA flare-ups might get worse after you’ve delivered your baby. Since the symptoms are lessened for the full nine months of gestation, they’ll feel especially bad postpartum. Experts also suggest the increase in pain might be a result of a decrease in the levels of anti-inflammatory steroids produced during pregnancy meant to assist in delivery. If you are currently pregnant and living with RA, you should consider discussing increased treatment options with your doctor to prepare for the inevitable pain after you’ve delivered. Jugging motherhood with intense pain from RA will certainly be difficult, so planning ahead will help.

Getting Pregnant With RA

Luckily, women with RA do not have to forgo becoming pregnant as a result of their condition. Pregnancy is just as easy if you have RA, and the pregnancy will actually act as a natural treatment and pain-reliever for your condition. Unfortunately, the symptoms might become worse after you’ve delivered. However, if you’re interested in becoming a mom, these symptoms can be treated and they are worth the benefits of a successful birth.

Source: Yael de Man et al: Disease Activity Of Rheumatoid Arthritis During Pregnancy: Results From A Nationwide Prospective Study. Arthritis Care and Research Volume 59 Issue 9 September 20098

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