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Ulcerative colitis (UC) 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.

When Guarnaccia's first child was born 2 years ago, it was a new challenge to care for a newborn while she also dealt with UC.

"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's the 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. Guarnaccia started taking her daughter to the bathroom with her. At home, she used the swing, bouncer, or the bassinet. Other safe places to put a baby are in the crib, car seat, carrier, or infant seat.

Mohit Goyal, a 40-year-old father of two, learned he had UC 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," Goyal says. And "I would scope out the nearest bathroom wherever I went, in case of an emergency."

Other things to think about:

  • Pick stores and restaurants 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 you can.