By Dr Irwin Lim, Rheumatologist
A couple of weeks ago, I was sent this very useful book which I wrote a brief post about. And today, I gave the book to a patient I met for the 1st time.
She's currently 3 months pregnant and had recently been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. She coping without medication and understandably wants to avoid using medication during the pregnancy.
She had a lot of questions and we took time to answer them, but I was very happy to be able to provide her a resource which I think will help her and her family deal with the difficult times ahead, her emotions, her concerns, and her health.
The following is a guest post by the author, Suzie Edward May:
Pregnancy and babies are not usually something immediately associated with arthritis. While our community still holds ill-informed misconceptions about what arthritis is and whom it affects, issues like pregnancy and parenting for women (and men) with arthritis will remain out of people’s minds. The reality is however (as you may well know), women living with chronic arthritis such as RA are having children everyday.
When my husband and I decided to start our family, I had lived with RA for 5 years. My illness had always been severe and I had grown dependent on a lot of medication to do the simplest daily tasks. Life was filled with constant pain, fatigue and uncertainty. When I spoke to my Rheumatologist about pregnancy, I was told I would need to come off all my medications over a period of months. This was a frightening prospect, as I had no idea what my body would be like without the crutch of medication. In fact, I had forgotten what it was like to live without pain everyday.
I searched worldwide for a resource that would explain to me how on earth I was meant to do this. I was desperate to speak with other women who had been through this process before me – and succeeded. To my disbelief, I found nothing. I made a decision at that moment that I would document my journey and write a book about arthritis and pregnancy, to ensure other women did not feel the isolation and fear that I felt.
Through my research for the book, I found and connected with women all over the world who had been through this process before me. They all echoed the same message – isolation and lack of information but great inner strength. They inspired me to get through my own two challenging pregnancies and motivated me to publish my book, despite my own debilitating RA.
Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood was launched in March 2010 and has currently sold to women and men across 13 countries. It remains the only resource of its kind worldwide and has been endorsed by arthritis and consumer organizations globally. While it is written by a health consumer, primarily for health consumers, it is also relevant to family, friends and colleagues of people living with arthritis, as well as health and medical service providers.
Not only has the book filled a gap in information about arthritis and pregnancy, it has also started an important global discussion that recognizes the challenges faced by parents and future parents with arthritis. The book takes the reader on the journey from pre-conception to caring for their baby up to 12 months. It shares the very real experiences of women who have been through this process and helps to prepare the reader for the potential challenges that lay ahead.
I am proud of this book for a number of reasons. The main being that it is making a real difference in people’s lives. So, while Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood remains relevant in its content, I will continue to seek and reach as many women and men as possible, so they don’t feel alone.
Parenting is a magical gift and when you live with a chronic illness it can feel far out of reach. When you are in so much pain that even rolling over in bed or dressing yourself seems insurmountable, it can be very hard to imagine your body creating another life. But, with your medical team behind you and your loved ones alongside you, it is possible. I cherish my two children everyday and still find it incredible that my body, which has let me down in so many ways, created them.
Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood is available at www.suzieedwardmay.com