Caring for a new baby is equal parts exciting and exhausting for all new parents. As a parent with axSpA, you may experience some additional challenges.
It is physically and emotionally demanding to care for a new baby. As a parent with axSpA, you may even experience some additional challenges. Here are a few tips that may help:
Whether to breastfeed or not, or for how long, is a very personal decision. Even mothers without arthritis can have issues that can prevent breastfeeding or make it very difficult.
There are usually no physical reasons that prevent women with axSpA from breastfeeding, apart from possible discomfort if you and your baby are not positioned correctly during feeding or if you have psoriasis around the breast. You can get advice on this from your child health nurse or lactation consultant at your local hospital. The choice to either breast or bottle feed your baby will depend on many factors, such as your milk supply, your baby and the medications you are taking.
Many medications for axSpA are safe to take during breastfeeding as they do not pass into breast milk, or only in very low levels that are safe for the baby. Others can pass into your breast milk and will not be safe for your baby. Talk to your healthcare team, including your rheumatologist about your plans for breastfeeding so that the best treatment plan, for both you and your baby, can be put into action when your baby is born.
See our Arthritis and Pregnancy booklet for a summary of the safety of arthritis medications during breastfeeding.
If you decide to breastfeed, here are some tips to make it more comfortable on your sore joints:
Bottle feeding can also cause strain on sore arms, hands, necks and upper backs.
Here are some tips:
You might find that your axSpA symptoms return or flare in the months after the baby is born.
This flare can make caring for your newborn very challenging. All the usual baby-care activities such as holding your baby during feeding, changing nappies, bathing, carrying and lifting your baby can be nearly impossible if you have severe joint pain and stiffness. You might also feel completely exhausted with arthritis-related fatigue on top of the sleep deprivation that comes with new babies.
It is a good idea to have an appointment booked with your rheumatology team four to six weeks after the birth.
If you notice your axSpA symptoms worsening in the weeks or months after the birth, get in touch with your rheumatologist straight away for advice about your treatment options.
A physiotherapist, occupational therapist or child health nurse may also be able to give you some practical advice about how to look after your baby during a flare. Using a baby carrier/sling and other equipment can make caring for your baby easier on your joints. See the section below for some tips about caring for a new baby when you have arthritis.
Most importantly, plan to get extra help. Have a support crew of family and friends on call for extra help if your symptoms flare. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your network during this time when you might be struggling with even the most basic tasks.
Rheumatologists are doctors who specialise in diseases of the joints. Your doctor will need to refer you to a rheumatologist. They may recommend a rheumatologist, or you can contact the Australian Rheumatology Association to find a rheumatologist.
A rheumatology nurse, if available, can help you understand your treatments, provide support and refer you to other health professionals.
A physiotherapist (physio) can use various treatments to keep your joints as flexible, strong and pain-free as possible. They will also show you exercises and pain-relief techniques to use at home.
An occupational therapist (OT) can provide advice on how to care for your baby without putting strain on your joints, including suggesting equipment and aids that can help.
Talk to your GP if you are finding your feelings and emotions are getting in the way of enjoying your life. They can suggest ways to cope, recommend medications that can help or refer you to a psychologist who can help you work through your feelings. You may be eligible for a Mental Health Care Plan, via your GP, which will provide subsidised sessions. You can also see a psychologist without needing a referral.
Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) supports women, men and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy and early parenthood.
beyondblue provides information and advice about depression, anxiety, available treatments and where to get help.
Child health nurses are a wealth of information and support as you learn to care for your new baby. Ask your obstetrician or midwife or contact your local community health centre to find out about services in your area.
Lactation consultants can help you with any problems you might have with breastfeeding. Find out if your local hospital or child health clinic provides this service, otherwise you can pay for a private consultation.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a helpline 1800 mum 2 mum (686 268) and online forum to help you with any breastfeeding concerns.
The Independent Living Centre has information about aids and devices that can help with day-to-day activities.
The web can be a useful source of information and support. However, not everyone who puts information on the web is a qualified health practitioner. Some organisations make unrealistic promises in order to sell their products. Treatment options and practices from overseas may also not be relevant or approved in Australia. Always check information from the web with a trusted member of your healthcare team.
The Australian Government’s HealthDirect is an excellent starting point for web searches, as every site that HealthDirect links to has been checked for quality and accuracy of information.
Arthritis Australia’s website for people living with inflammatory arthritis www.empowered.org.au has a detailed section on pregnancy, including hearing directly from women with arthritis about their journeys to motherhood.
The Australian Rheumatology Association has a detailed document that outlines the most current evidence about the safety of arthritis medications during pregnancy.