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Family Concerns and a Twist of Fate

One thing that really upset me about this path of medication (methotrexate) I was about to travel, was that under no circumstances was I allowed to get pregnant while on it. For a lot of people with this condition that would be OK, because some of them are at an age where they have had their children and aren't looking to have any more. That’s fair enough, but for a near 23-year-old who had not long had her first baby, this hurt.

For as long as I can remember, a family has been one of my main goals in life. Having children was something I couldn’t wait to do. I felt I was put on this earth to have children and be a mummy. The last thing I expected was for something to come along and stop me from being able to do that. At 22, who would? There were alternative options, of course there always are, however methotrexate seemed to be the most beneficial medication for my health and the way I was feeling at this particular time. I just didn’t want to say no to taking it. It felt like I had no other choice.

Thinking it through

I gave myself some time to think about it, and during this time I was taking prednisolone (steroid) tablets. In truth they were a godsend to me, because they made me feel human, they made me feel like I had complete control (unless it was a flare up day that is, but I guess we can't have everything). I generally felt happy and healthy while taking them. And because I was feeling OK while taking the prednisolone, I had a break from all things rheumatoid arthritis (RA). It took me a little while to get over what felt like such a huge deal to me. Mike would explain to me that it didn’t mean we could never have any more kids, but for me it did. I felt as if once I started to take the methotrexate, I wouldn’t want to risk having another baby. The idea of anything happening to my unborn child was heart-breaking and I would have blamed myself forever for it.

A big surprise in store

Before I knew it Harry was 10 months old. Not such a little baby now, he was so active! He definitely kept me on my toes. I realised at this point that it was no good ignoring things anymore; I knew I needed real help and that I should start taking this condition seriously. So, I attended an appointment with my consultant and agreed to start taking methotrexate. She arranged a date for me to collect everything I needed from the pharmacy in the hospital and advised me to take a routine pregnancy test before I started the medication, just to be 100% sure I wasn’t pregnant before taking. So it was that the day before collecting my tablets, I did a pregnancy test. I had two of my sisters round at the time, and I explained to them that it was to be sure I wasn’t pregnant before starting my treatment. I was absolutely convinced it would be negative, so I went upstairs to do the test.

Well, you just couldn’t make it up! Right there in front of me as clear as day, two red lines that confirmed I was in fact, pregnant! I stared at the test for a while as I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went back downstairs in a panic. My sisters looked at me as if to say, ‘what's wrong?’ as I told them the test was positive. They didn’t believe me at first, not that I would ever joke about such a thing, but because this was so out of the blue. It was not something Mike and I had planned as we had our hands full with Harry, so this was definitely a surprise. To be honest, I panicked, because with everything going on in my life, I just didn’t quite know what to think, or how I would even begin to tell Mike. He was so fed up of seeing me in pain, he wanted me to start feeling better just as much as I did.

Decisions to be made and a solution

Once Mike came home from work, I put Harry to bed and told him I needed to speak to him. We knew we wanted at least one more baby but we didn’t expect it to be so soon. So, I told him, and as you would expect he didn’t know what to say. I imagine at the time he wanted to say so much but he just didn’t know where to start. There were so many questions we both had. Was it too soon after my diagnosis? Would I suffer whilst carrying the baby? Would I have to go without treatment? How was this going to affect our relationship? But please don’t for one second think that not having this baby was an option. There was nothing we wanted more, but it did worry us how this was going to work.

The following day I called my consultant and asked if I could see her to discuss something personal. She managed to fit me in, and I explained what had been going on. Honestly, she was so supportive, and immediately advised me about other options such as sulfasalazine which I could take while pregnant (this basically does what the methotrexate does, a little less effectively but is safe to take during pregnancy).

An added bonus

The next strange thing was, that as I got a couple of weeks further into my pregnancy, I noticed I was in much less pain than before I was pregnant. It was unbelievable really and I had no idea why. I even thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’m not suffering from RA after all if it can just go away like that.’ Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, as I was advised at my next appointment that some pregnant woman with RA find their symptoms go into remission throughout pregnancy. At this stage my consultant also asked me what my plans were with regard to taking medication while pregnant. I said that as I wasn’t really suffering, I didn’t want to take anything. That way I knew that baby would be safe if there was any chance at all that it could affect him/her. She was fine with that but did, however, advise me this would just be the case while I was pregnant, because as soon as baby was here the RA would more than likely return with a vengeance, especially as I had decided not to take any medication throughout the pregnancy itself. Not such good news...

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