Pregnant women resting on a bench with joint pain

Women’s bodies go through many changes during pregnancy, and some preexisting conditions can even worsen during these formative nine months. One such condition is arthritis, as many pregnant women experience increased pain in various joints of the body.

This is very normal and common, but pregnant women often wonder what the best ways are to treat the pain they are feeling. Arthritis flare-ups can happen during any stage of pregnancy but are often worst in the first trimester.

This article will describe what women with arthritis should expect during various stages of pregnancy, including the first trimester. It will also address treatment options for pregnant women who are experiencing joint pain.

Relationship Between Arthritis and Pregnancy

Arthritis affects joints in the body, and the extra weight that women carry during pregnancy can increase the amount of pressure on the joints.1,6 Many pregnant women with arthritis feel increased pressure in the knees and spine, which can cause numbness and muscle spasms.

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With the new water weight, pregnant women may also experience stiffness in the hips, ankles, feet, and wrists.6 But interestingly, some women actually report having fewer symptoms of arthritis during pregnancy than they normally do when not pregnant.

RA and Pregnancy

Pregnant women who have rheumatoid arthritis often experience increased fatigue in the first trimester due to their joint issues.2 But the good news is that most women experience a relief of this pain as the second trimester begins.2,3,4,5 Theories as to why this happens to include gradual adaptations to hormonal changes and increased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

When women enter their third trimester, RA symptoms typically remain mild.4 However, the symptoms may worsen again with the final weight gain as the delivery date approaches. Women with RA are at a slightly higher risk of having a premature baby or delivering by Cesarean section. Post-partum arthritis flare-ups are also common among women who experienced worsened arthritis pain during pregnancy.

Arthritis Back Symptoms

Even pregnant women who don’t have any form of arthritis often feel back pain.1,5 However, arthritis sufferers experience this to an even greater degree.2 Arthritis back symptoms during pregnancy include aching pain, stiffness, limited range of motion, and back fatigue.

Treating Arthritis During Pregnancy

The way that a woman normally treats arthritis is likely to change during pregnancy due to the risk of medication on an unborn baby. Instead of oral medications that come with a risk of side effects, doctors may recommend topical arthritis pain relief creams, like JointFlex. Fortunately, the worsened arthritis symptoms during pregnancy will often subside once the baby is born.

Light exercise on a regular basis can help alleviate joint pain in pregnant women,7 as well as hot and cold therapy.8 Women can try taking a warm bath, using a heating pad, or placing an ice pack on sore joints. Massage, acupuncture, and herbal treatments may be recommended by a doctor too. Pregnant women with arthritis should also avoid wearing high heels, practice good posture, and try deep breathing and relaxation techniques to reduce pain and discomfort.

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REFERENCES for ARTHRITIS DURING PREGNANCY

1. Pregnancy and arthritis. University of Washington Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from http://www.orthop.washington.edu/?q=patient-care/articles/arthritis/pregnancy-and-arthritis.html.
2. DeVries, C. (2015 April 21). What you should know about arthritis and pregnancy. Arthritis Health. Retrieved October 19, 2018 from https://www.arthritis-health.com/blog/what-you-should-know-about-arthritis-and-pregnancy.
3. Why pregnancy pauses the pain of arthritis. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2006/09/pregnancy-arthritis.html.
4. Dunkin, M. A. Rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/life-stages/pregnancy-family/pregnancy-and-rheumatoid-arthritis.php.
5. Østensen, M., Fuhrer, L., Mathieu, R., Seitz, M., & Villiger, P. M. (2004). A prospective study of pregnant patients with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis using validated clinical instruments. Annals of Rheumatic Diseases, 63, 1212-1217. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/ard.2003.016881.
6. Back pain during pregnancy. (2016). American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Back-Pain-During-Pregnancy.
7. Silva, A. (2004 December 24). Exercise for back pain during pregnancy. Spine Health. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/pregnancy-and-back-pain/exercise-back-pain-during-pregnancy.
8. Using heat and cold for pain relief. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved October 23, 2018 from https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/heat-cold-pain-relief.php.

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