Since before I found out I was pregnant in July I’ve heard that while pregnancy can be the best “medicine” for Crohn’s disease and many autoimmune diseases, it’s after the baby is here when problems are more apt to strike. At more than 39 weeks pregnant—what once felt like a worry for the future is quickly becoming a reality for right now. Will I go from the blissfulness feeling of being symptom-free, to ending up in a hospital bed tethered to IV drugs within weeks of delivering my miracle?!
Recently I received comments from readers saying everything from “I had a perfect pregnancy and then the worst flare of my life a week after delivering”…to “I have triplets and two out of three have Crohn’s.” I love hearing feedback and the whole point of this blog is to get the conversation going in the Crohn’s community and to serve as an advocate and voice for those who suffer in silence….but, I’d be lying if I said those comments haven’t stuck with me.
Crohn’s and pregnancy can be thought of as “the rule of thirds.” One third of women will get better, one third will stay the same and one third will worsen. I feel SO fortunate to have been in remission—even if it’s only for a short time. The biological mechanism of this finding has yet to be fully explained, but several studies have suggested that the immune disparity between mother and fetus might play a role in immune regulation, thereby altering immune function and pathology.
Every single doctor—from my regular OB to my GI has warned me that 2-4 months postpartum is when problems are most likely to arise. It’s thought that the hormone progesterone helps mask symptoms, slow down digestion and calm the illness. When the cord is cut and you lose those hormones your body crashes back to “normalcy”—and that’s when the disease tends to creep back up. This is why I’ve been kept on all my medication—from start to finish of my pregnancy. Much to my dismay—it did give me peace of mind to know I was keeping myself healthy, to ensure I could safely bring another life into this world.
As I prepare for delivery I can’t help but think what life with my disease will be like once I am no longer pregnant. It’s one thing to lay in a ball on the couch reeling in pain when you only need to care about yourself. I fear what it will be like if symptoms strike and I’m home alone with my baby, unable to take a break or get relief because my priority will no longer be taking care of myself, but rather my son.
There is a hopeful study that shows pregnancy may protect against future flare-ups and may reduce the need for surgery, thanks to the hormone Relaxin. Relaxin is the hormone that prevents the uterus from contracting prematurely; it’s also thought to prevent the future formation of scar tissue, which frequently causes Crohn’s disease patients to require surgery.
Heading to the ER and not knowing when you’re returning home is much different when it’s just you and your significant other—it’s a whole different ball game when there’s a child depending on you at home. It pains me to think about missing my little baby as I lay in a hospital bed. I’m hoping I don’t have to go through that experience for awhile. I can only imagine how much of a burden I will feel like leaving my husband and family to take care of everything while I’m unable to provide a helping a hand. I know it’s inevitable—but, hope it’s not for a long time.
The stress of being a new parent, the lack of sleep and all the change sounds like a recipe for disaster when it comes to Crohn’s…change is oftentimes the culprit. All I can do now is thank God for providing me with a pregnancy that’s been picture perfect in every way and find confidence in knowing that I’ve always risen above everything that’s come my way disease-wise over the last 11.5 years. I can’t think of a better reason to fight for the feel good days—then getting to live my life at home with my husband and my son.