Emily Moore was one of the lucky ones. While she was pregnant with her daughter, Hallie, she got a brief reprieve from the stomach pains and constant running to the bathroom she's endured since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 16. "When I was pregnant, I felt really good," she recalls.
Unfortunately, Moore's ulcerative colitis became active again right after Hallie was born. "For the first six to eight weeks after I had her, I had a fever every night, and my stomach was bothering me a lot," says the 28-year-old mom. "When you have to step up to the plate, you just do it no matter how bad you feel.”
Moore adopted techniques to help her juggle the demands of motherhood with the challenges of living with ulcerative colitis. Some of her strategies may help any new mom with UC.
New Motherhood and UC: Plan Ahead
It's common for ulcerative colitis to flare up in the first few months after delivery, especially if your disease was active before and during your pregnancy. In part, this post-pregnancy flare-up is due to hormonal changes going on in your body.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms can make the entry into motherhood more stressful and exhausting. No matter how intense and painful the stomach cramps get, however, you can't just drop your baby anywhere and run to the bathroom. Babies need constant supervision. So you need to plan ahead.
Moore had a plan ready for Hallie in case of emergencies. "When she was really young and I had to run to the bathroom, I would put her in the pack 'n play with some toys," Moore says.
A crib or a car seat is another safe place for your baby to wait for you. If your baby is still small, strap him into a carrier or car seat and bring him into the bathroom with you.
Traveling with a baby and ulcerative colitis requires even more careful planning, especially when your symptoms are flaring. Even a simple trip to the grocery store can become a nightmare without some preparation. To make outings smoother:
- Find out ahead of time if there are bathrooms close by.
- Make sure your stroller can fit into the stall with you.
- Pick family-friendly stores, which usually have facilities to accommodate parents with children.
Take Your Ulcerative Colitis Medications
You may be worried about your ulcerative colitis medications if you're planning to breastfeed. Although most UC medications seem to be safe while breastfeeding, there are a couple that are questionable. You'll want to work closely with your ob/gyn and gastroenterologist about which medications are best for you while you are breastfeeding.
Don't stop taking your medications or change your treatment plan on your own. Remember that you still need to keep your disease under control.
What happens if new mothers with UC stop their medication? “They can have a significant flare," says Uma Mahadevan, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of clinical research at the University of California, San Francisco, Center for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. "It's very difficult once the baby is born if the mother is sick."