IBD Parenthood Project: How a new initiative brings hope and clarity to IBD moms

This post is sponsored by the American Gastroenterological Association (AGA). I am a paid program Brand Influencer; this post is sponsored and includes my own personal experiences.

Whether you consider yourself to be healthy or if you battle a chronic illness, the thought of pregnancy and motherhood can be overwhelming. So many unknowns. So many what ifs. _f6b0473As a mom of two, who has battled Crohn’s disease for more than 13 years, I can relate to the concerns and the anxiety about what the future holds, what our bodies are capable of and how our disease will respond as we bring new life into this world.

My son turns two in March and my daughter was just born January 14. To say it’s been a busy couple of years is an understatement! That being said, family planning, pregnancy and postpartum care are all experiences that I’ve dealt with recently as a woman with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). When you live with Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, there’s no telling what the next hour or the next day will bring. You’re oftentimes on medications and navigating disease symptoms and flares. You wonder if your body can take on the role of creating a new life, when it has continually failed you and caused flare-ups of disease activity. You worry about the likelihood of passing on your disease to your children. There’s a laundry list of questions and thoughts that run through your mind. ibd-parenthoodproject-logo-01

My experience is much like any woman who battles a chronic illness. So much gray area, not enough concrete research or answers. This is what inspired the launch of the IBD Parenthood Project. The new website aims to provide IBD patients with medical facts about IBD and pregnancy. You can think of it as a one-stop-shop for all your questions and a reliable resource to address your uncertainties and validate your decisions. The IBD Parenthood Project aims to address misconceptions that so many of us universally have when it comes to medications, working with a healthcare team, delivery, breastfeeding and postpartum care.

18-untitled-9170.jpgThis resource gives mothers like me and you peace of mind and empowers us to make decisions about our bodies and for our families, in the safest way possible. The information arms us with the knowledge to not only allow us to be our own best advocates, but also comfort us as we build our families and take on the role of mom.

During my first pregnancy, I was very hesitant to breastfeed my son because of the biologic I was on. I worried about the lack of long-term studies available and if a postpartum flare would impact my ability to nourish him. I wasn’t sure where to turn to for sound, credible advice. I turned to Google and stumbled upon conflicting information and varying opinions shared on online support group forums. Making this decision was difficult, img_1346and the information out there led me to feel a bit uneasy. I chose to formula feed my son because of the lack of research and consistent information that I was able to find.

Now, less than two years later, my thoughts on breastfeeding while on a biologic have evolved. I’ve been able to educate myself thanks to resources like the IBD Parenthood Project that have given me medically-based facts on the benefits of breastfeeding my little girl. With Crohn’s, you often feel like you’re riding in the car, but not in the driver’s seat. This new website and toolkit makes you feel like you’re the one behind the wheel. It provides a newfound confidence that so many of us lack.

The  “Pregnancy & IBD: After You Deliver” fact sheet addresses all the big questions that arise once your baby is here. The information covers everything you need to know for yourself and for your child. As we know, the postpartum period, or the “fourth trimester,” is complicated, regardless of your health. Throw in IBD and it makes for what can be an even more complicated transition. Having this resource at our disposal saves us from doing the homework and helps guide us as we take on the unknown and acclimate to our new life.

Motherhood has inspired me greatly in my battle against IBD. It’s shown me that despite my body repeatedly challenging me, I was still able to bring life into this world. Family planning and having children is a personal decision. But, if it’s something you dream of and something you hope for in your life, please take the time to educate and equip yourself with the knowledge that is now readily available, right at your fingertips. Remember, with proper planning and care, women with IBD can and do have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.