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8 Things to Know About Childbirth and UC

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First of all, shout out to all the people out there that live with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and have given birth and/or will give birth in the future. Pregnancy is a journey for anyone, let alone someone living with something like IBD. Your body goes through amazing transformations to create a home for a tiny human for nine months, and it still manages to do all the other things it needs to do to keep you healthy. I was fortunate to have a really great pregnancy without complications, but I know that’s not the story for so many people living with IBD and carrying a child around.

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Now childbirth? That is another story. I had no clue what to expect when it came to labor, and I ultimately ended up with an unplanned C-section. Looking back, that was the best option for both myself and my son, but at the time, it was an incredibly difficult reality to process. I’ve had many moments in life where I felt like my body was failing me (hi, ulcerative colitis!), and a C-section was probably the worst of those moments. I’m six months removed now, so I’ve had time to process and heal emotionally, but it was a tough couple of months.

If you’re preparing for labor and also living with IBD, it’s important to be prepared for any type of experience. (I didn’t poop on the table, but boy, was I ready for it – but that happens regardless of UC.) But in all seriousness, here are 10 things I discovered as a mom living with UC (I’m not a doctor, so this is 100% based on my personal experience only):

  1. IBD doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to have complications. Quite the opposite for me, actually. My GI explained to me that a lot of parents actually feel their best with UC during pregnancy, if they’re in remission when they conceive. Of course that’s not true for everyone, but it was important for me to know that it wasn’t guaranteed to be difficult.
  2. You may have extra ultrasounds. I unfortunately contracted COVID-19 when I was seven months pregnant, so I did have extra monitoring for my son’s breathing. But outside of that, my OB did say it was common to have extra checkups for those living with an autoimmune condition. 
  3. Discuss IBD medications with your OB. I am on a treatment that requires me to wait four hours to breastfeed after taking it. But I also wanted to know if my son was getting any of it while inside my belly. Having these conversations with my doctor eased a lot of nerves.
  4. Bowel “issues” don’t necessarily mean a flare; sometimes it’s just pregnancy. I had a few scares during a pregnancy walk, as well as some right after delivery. My calprotectin tests around pregnancy and childbirth showed zero inflammation; these issues were simply related to being pregnant.
  5. A C-section may be necessary, or it may not be. Prior to childbirth, I had heard that a C-section was preferred for people living with IBD. However, after speaking with both my OB and my GI, I discovered that this wasn’t necessarily true; people can have totally healthy vaginal births with UC. 
  6. Ask about the epidural. Not because I was concerned about it going wrong, but more because I tend to get sick after colonoscopies due to the sedation. My epidural happened to have the same type of medication in it, so the same happened after labor. Thankfully, my husband remembered that it was “normal” for me to be sick for the hours after, so he was able to tell the nurses I was actually going to be fine. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
  7. Post-labor underwear is actually the best. Just for fun, you should probably check out the Frida boy short ones. 
  8. Tell the recovery nurses about your medications. At least in my hospital, they wanted to monitor everything I ingested for the two days after my C-section, so I wasn’t allowed to take my own medication in recovery. (I had to wait for their pharmacy to bring them.) My schedule fell off due to the timing of the birth, so make sure your nurses know what you need to be taking.

Again, I’m not a doctor, so this is based on my experience only. If you’re family planning and also living with UC, I hope these insights and tips help guide your journey and make it the safest and healthiest as possible.

Originally published: November 2, 2022
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