Ulcerative colitis has been a part of Jennifer Guarnaccia's life since she was 13. For the last 4 years, the 28-year-old mom has had on-and-off symptom flares. Her most common problems: stomach cramps, fatigue, mouth sores, and diarrhea.
"Some days I feel great. But more than half the time it's horrible. I'm in the bathroom all day long," she says.
Caring for a newborn while also dealing with UC was a new challenge when Guarnaccia's first child was born 2 years ago.
"When things are hectic as they are with a new baby, it's easier to forget meds, postpone doctor's appointments, and cut corners by sacrificing ourselves over the care of our kids," says gastroenterologist Raymond Cross, MD. He is director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
As Guarnaccia and other parents with UC learn, there are ways to make life a bit easier when you're caring for a little one.
Always Be Prepared
As a parent, it's key to plan around your symptoms.
Make sure you have a safe spot for your baby. Taking her daughter to the bathroom became a part of Guarnaccia's life. At home, she used the swing, bouncer, or the bassinet. Other safe places to put a baby are the crib, car seat, carrier, or infant seat.
Mohit Goyal, a 40-year-old father of two, was diagnosed with the condition in 2000. He had a flare when his daughter was a newborn.
"When I had a flare, my digestive system dictated my schedule. I wouldn't take my daughter out if I could avoid it then," says Goyal. And "I would scope out the nearest bathroom wherever I went, in case of an emergency."
Other things to think about:
- Pick shopping and eating venues with family-friendly bathrooms.
- Use a stroller that fits in tight bathroom stalls.
- Pack a change of clothes for yourself in the diaper bag.
- During a flare, have shorter outings when possible.
Get Some Backup
Having support -- your partner, family, friends, or paid help -- is critical for parents with UC.
Take advantage of a helping hand to grab a nap or step away from the house a while. Or have them take your baby on an outing while you stay home.
"It's a relief for my husband or mother to take our daughter to the park or go to the store for me on a bad day," says Guarnaccia.