The decision to have a child is a big one, huge actually, and when you have a chronic illness such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease your decision can be clouded with extra uncertainty. Here I present some advice and tips to help get you thinking.
When I mentioned wanting to be sure "everything was ok" before trying to get pregnant, both my family and my doctor thought I was being too worried and their advice was that "when you and your husband feel ready, then you're ready." That caps off everything I'm going to say today and is the most important advice. Only you can decide when you're ready so follow your heart, talk it over together and make sure the decision is right for you.
If you're like me however, you might smile at the touchy-feely advice and then look for something a bit more helpful. I'm laughing as I type this but, yes indeed I'm geeky enough to want to put some logic to such an emotional decision. Here are some tips and suggestions you might consider.
- Try to wait until you are in a remission period. If your Crohn's Disease is newly diagnosed or tends to come and go periodically, it might be a good idea to see if your doctor can help you achieve remission before you start trying for a baby. Don't wait forever though, if you are still in a flare up but your doctor advises you are safe, then go for it.
- Women who are in a flare up before getting pregnant tend to stay in a flare up or get worse during pregnancy. Women who are in remission tend to stay that way during pregnancy. Many women report feeling their best ever during their pregnancy. Either way there are always exceptions.
- Try to achieve a healthy weight before conceiving. If you are underweight due to a recent flare up, try to gain back up to your ideal weight. Being over or underweight can adversely affect your fertility. Being underweight often goes with malnourishment which can affect your baby.
- Quit smoking as soon before becoming pregnant as possible to ensure those urges are well behind you. Quit drinking shortly before you start trying to ensure you don't inadvertently drink while pregnant.
- Ask your doctor if any medications you are taking are safe for pregnant women. If not, see if your doctor can put you on an alternative therapy or pause a drug during your pregnancy.
- Begin taking pre-natal vitamins with Folic Acid at least one month before you start trying. Dispose of any old or unused medications at the pharmacy because these can be dangerous for you and for children.
- A bad flare up can result in malnourishment. Start eating a well rounded nutritious diet of healthy foods. Consider asking your doctor to do a blood test to ensure you are not low on any nutrients. A dietitian can help you work out a menu that will be nutritious and won't trigger your symptoms (as much).
- Ensure that you are fully healed from any recent surgeries and that you get the all-clear from your doctor or surgeon.
- If you've had abdominal surgery or a large number of x-rays, ask your doctor for advice on whether you should be concerned with that. Ask your doctor if he or she recommends an Ob-Gyn who is familiar with the added risks that IBD can involve.
- Get some exercise. A flare up can cause you to limit your physical activity. Now is the time to get back into it and improve your over-all health.
- Clean out your life. Get rid of junk, simplify the demands on your time, and streamline everything you can. The less stress and strain on you the better you will do during your pregnancy.
- And finally, the best advice is that no one can tell you when the time is right. You and your partner need to make this decision together. Don't let hurdles or fears get in your way of trying to have a family if that is what you want for your life.