Preparing to Become a Mother with Crohn's Disease - Part 1

In my last post, We Have to Plan to Plan - Life & Routine with IBD, I talked about how my Type A personality has evolved since my journey with IBD began, and how my life has operated over the past many years with having a variety of plans in place, easy to implement at any time given whatever health scenario presented itself.

In 2018, my husband and I went through several rounds of fertility treatments, starting with testing, undergoing 4 failed IUI’s, a full cycle of IVF including egg retrieval, a failed fresh transfer, and finally, in September 2018, a successful frozen embryo transfer. My IBD plans during the year really involved maintaining as much control over disease as possible to ensure that our treatments could repeat when unsuccessful and that we could continue to work towards a healthy pregnancy.

In September, we took our first ever positive pregnancy test, and our plans transitioned again - not just on how we were maintaining a status of remission, but on exactly what or how would need to happen if I became symptomatic again, if I entered a flare, if I entered the hospital, and how we would ensure that the baby continued to grow and thrive in my womb.

How will I manage motherhood and IBD?

As I write this, I am 8 months pregnant, and my patterns of thought are slowly shifting from keeping the baby safe inside of me to how I am going to manage the facets of upcoming motherhood while also remembering that IBD must always be on my mind and in my plans. I’m going to be honest, this transition in thought is one that kind of snuck up on me. For as long as I can remember, my husband and I focused on getting pregnant, and then on staying pregnant and managing a healthy pregnancy. The upcoming arrival of our daughter is just now sort of becoming a more clear reality, which means that there are several areas of preparation for us to focus on!

New parents have tons of checklists - what to buy for the baby, what to put in the nursery, attending prenatal classes, choosing a pediatrician, etc. New parents, where one parent has Inflammatory Bowel Disease, in my opinion, have several other things they must consider.

Rest for IBD with a newborn

First on my list is the rest/sleep balance. Everyone assumes that with a new baby, parents will be getting a minimal, irregular amount of sleep. And while mentally, and emotionally, that’s something I’d have no problem with, I know for a fact that my weakened immune system and my flawed gut both will have challenges with this fact. So, my husband and I have begun planning ways in which I can regularly get rest, even if the baby is awake. Our partnership will start from the very beginning and also be managed 24 hours a day.

Nutrition for me and the baby

Next is nutrition. Nutrition for myself, and for the baby. I am hoping/planning to breastfeed if my body and my baby allow, but that means a lot of things to consider. In addition to the regular breastfeeding challenges, as an IBD patient, I feel like my list of questions/concerns is much longer than the average mother without an autoimmune disease.

Questions such as: am I getting enough calories, specifically digestible calories for my Crohn’s disease, and staying hydrated enough to have a sustainable milk supply? Are my sustainable/safe foods full of the correct nutrients for my daughter? Will I be able to pump extra supply so my husband can bottle feed our daughter with breast milk when I need to sleep? What about if I start to flare and need to be put on steroids or other medications? Will they be safe for my baby to digest? And if I have to end up in the hospital, how will I get food to my baby?

In the nest post of my series, Preparing to Become a Mother with Crohn’s Disease - Part 2, stay tuned for additional thoughts we’ve tried to think through and plan for.

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