However, my pregnancies were very different in terms of how I experienced my RA.  As I had only been off medication for six months prior to becoming pregnant with my first child, my RA was manageable.  While I experienced three flares during the nine months, requiring cortisone injections to relieve pain and inflammation, I didn’t take any regular arthritis medications.

During my second pregnancy, however, I had been off medication for 12 months prior to becoming pregnant (because it took longer to fall pregnant, not because we wanted to wait that long) and I experienced an ongoing flare for the entire nine months.  In fact, my RA was so bad that I survived on cortisone injections (between 6 and 8 each fortnight [two weeks]) into various joints (feet, fingers, wrists, hips, shoulders, knees and neck) as this was considered the safest treatment option for me.  At times I was so debilitated that I was unable to roll over in bed, get in and out of bed, squeeze a tube of toothpaste, drive, change my toddler’s nappy [diaper] – during my second pregnancy – or dress myself.  I was totally dependent on the cortisone injections to function.  Toward the end of my pregnancy, the injections were only helping for about two days before my pain would increase again and I would be back to square one.

After going through all the trials of going off medication and going through your first pregnancy, what made you decide to do it again?

I never considered not doing it all again.  My husband and I always wanted more than one child so it was more a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ we would do it all again.  We both have siblings and wanted to give our son the gift of a brother or sister if we were able to.  We decided to wait long enough between children to allow me to breastfeed and to go back on medication for a while.  However, I only lasted back on medication for 4 months after I stopped breastfeeding our first child before I came off drugs again to prepare for baby number two.

If you could give one piece of advice to women with arthritis wanting to have a baby what would it be?

While bringing your children into this world is likely to be a challenge, the fact that you already live with the debilitating impact of arthritis means that you are a brave and strong woman who is used to the need to be creative, flexible and practical about the way you live your life.

Educate yourself as much as you can about the struggles you are likely to face during this process and remind yourself that it will be the most rewarding challenge you will ever face in your life.  If you are able to bring a child into this world, there is no doubt that your love for that child will transcend the physical and emotional pain you endured while striving to achieve this goal.  And in turn, your children will one day recognize the sacrifice you made – on your own body – to give them life and will be inspired by your strength and dedication to your family.

If you could give one piece of advice to new mothers with arthritis, what would it be?

Do what you feel is right for you and your baby.  Motherhood is a time when I believe instinct plays a big role.  While some mothers with arthritis may feel determined to breastfeed their baby and delay returning onto their medications, others will make the choice to bottle feed their baby and restart their medications immediately post-birth.  While some mothers will move in with other family members to help during the first few months, others will cope on their own with their supportive partners by their side.  You are the best person to determine what you and your baby need – trust yourself and your ability to be a functioning, productive and loving mother, despite your arthritis.