Iâ€™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 navigateÂ 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 (Iâ€™m so glad that I wasnâ€™t in a flare!), labor and delivery were pretty â€śuneventfulâ€ť and our sweet baby boy, Quinn, was born without any issues. Looking back, the final weeks of my pregnancy couldnâ€™t have gone any better considering what I was dealing with.
But then things took a turn for the worseâ€¦
Following Quinnâ€™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 isÂ restlessness, which made â€śsleeping when the baby sleepsâ€ť even more impossible.)Â 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 couldnâ€™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 couldnâ€™t even take care of myself â€“ let along a tiny baby. I ended up pulling Quinnâ€™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.Â
A big question for me â€“ and many women with IBD â€“Â is whether or not their medications are safe to take during pregnancy and whether or not they can breastfeed while on them.Â 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 moreÂ resistant.
My flare wasnâ€™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 didnâ€™t know what to think. I wanted to be healthy enough to care for my son, but I wasnâ€™t sure if I was risking his well-being by continuing to breastfeed him. At the time, there wasnâ€™t a trusted resource to answer my questions and put my mind at ease. Thankfully, now thereâ€™s a place.
TheÂ IBD Parenthood ProjectÂ 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 â€“ 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 â€“ among gastroenterologists, maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) subspecialists and patients â€“ to ensure everyoneâ€™s concerns have been addressed â€“ from not only the clinical side, but the patient side, too. On the site, youâ€™ll find:
Iâ€™m really excited about my partnership with AGAâ€™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 theÂ IBD Parenthood Project!