I’ve partnered with the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) to bring you this blog post. Read on to learn more about a new resource that was just launched to help women navigate IBD and pregnancy.
At the end of my pregnancy, I started to have a few flare symptoms related to my ulcerative colitis diagnosis. They were fairly minor to start, but got worse and worse as the weeks progressed. My GI doctor put me on a steroid treatment, which my OB/GYN assured me was safe for my unborn baby. Of course, I was a little uneasy about this decision, but the last thing I wanted was a situation where I was battling a full-on flare during labor and delivery. I was only a few weeks from my due date, so I just hoped the both of us would be okay.
In the end, everything worked out just fine. I made it to my due date (+ 7 days) with only minor flare symptoms. Besides pushing for nearly 4 hours (I’m so glad that I wasn’t in a flare!), labor and delivery were pretty “uneventful” and our sweet baby boy, Quinn, was born without any issues. Looking back, the final weeks of my pregnancy couldn’t have gone any better considering what I was dealing with.
But then things took a turn for the worse…
Following Quinn’s arrival, my minor symptoms turned into a full-on flare. It started as frequent trips to the bathroom (about a dozen a day) with cramping and diarrhea mixed with mucus and blood. I immediately contacted my GI doctor, who increased my dose of steroids. Unfortunately, the higher dose only slightly improved my symptoms. And, truthfully, their side effects made the sleepless nights with a newborn even worse. (A common side effect of steroids is restlessness, which made “sleeping when the baby sleeps” even more impossible.) I struggled through the next several weeks as a new mom and sick IBD patient.
My lowest low point as a mother happened during this time period. I was home alone with Quinn and he was having an epic crying fit like babies often do. I was holding him and doing my best to console him, but then I was hit with the urge to use the bathroom. I tried to fight it, but I just couldn’t wait any longer, so I was forced to put Quinn down in his bassinet.
I made it to the bathroom, but as soon as I was finished, I was right back on the toilet. Quinn continued to cry, but there was nothing I could do about it. I felt so helpless and like a huge failure as a mom. I couldn’t even take care of myself – let along a tiny baby. I ended up pulling Quinn’s bassinet into the bathroom with me, so I could at least be near him as he cried. It was truly heartbreaking for me, and easily the saddest moment of my motherhood to date.
I honestly believe that this whole experience could have been avoided if I had know more about my treatment options while breastfeeding.
A big question for me – and many women with IBD – is whether or not their medications are safe to take during pregnancy and whether or not they can breastfeed while on them. My GI doctor (even before I got pregnant) encouraged me to start a biologic medication to manage my symptoms. I was really hesitant about starting an intravenous drug back then, so now that I was breastfeeding, I was even more resistant.
My flare wasn’t getting any better (if anything, the symptoms were getting worse), so I consulted my doctors, lactation consultants, and (*sigh*) Dr. Google. And, of course, the answers that I found were all over the place, and I didn’t know what to think. I wanted to be healthy enough to care for my son, but I wasn’t sure if I was risking his well-being by continuing to breastfeed him. At the time, there wasn’t a trusted resource to answer my questions and put my mind at ease. Thankfully, now there’s a place.
The IBD Parenthood Project is an incredible resource for women with IBD. Its goal is to address misperceptions and fears related to IBD throughout all phases of family planning – from conception to pregnancy and after delivery, including breastfeeding.
I learned more about this project at the launch event that I attended on January 17 in New York City. This initiative was truly a collaborative effort – among gastroenterologists, maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) subspecialists and patients – to ensure everyone’s concerns have been addressed – from not only the clinical side, but the patient side, too. On the site, you’ll find:
- medical facts about IBD and pregnancy
- a visual guide with illustrations, facts, and figures to help you through each stage of your pregnancy journey
- a downloadable patient toolkit
- a list of key questions to ask your doctor if you’re thinking of becoming pregnant
- a guide to postnatal care
- and so much more!
I’m really excited about my partnership with AGA’s IBD Parenthood Project, and I know these resources will help so many women with IBD throughout all stages of family planning. I hope you decide to check it out, and please share with anyone who might benefit from the IBD Parenthood Project!