If you’re a new mom who’s feeling achy and stiff in your joints, you might be wondering what’s going on. Is it normal to have joint pain after giving birth? Or could it be something more serious, like arthritis?
The answer is: it depends. Joint pain is common after pregnancy, but sometimes it can be a sign of arthritis, especially if it’s severe and persistent. Arthritis is a group of diseases that cause inflammation and damage in the joints, leading to pain, swelling and reduced mobility. There are many types of arthritis, but the most common ones that affect women after pregnancy are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is a wear-and-tear disease that affects the cartilage that cushions the bones in the joints. It causes the cartilage to break down, resulting in bone rubbing against bone and causing pain. Osteoarthritis usually affects the joints that bear weight, such as the knees, hips and spine.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that affects the lining of the joints. It causes the immune system to attack the joints, causing inflammation and damage to the joint tissues. Rheumatoid arthritis can affect any joint in the body, but it often affects the hands, wrists and feet.
So how do you know if you have postpartum arthritis? And what can you do about it? Here are some tips to help you cope with postpartum arthritis:
How to Recognize Postpartum Arthritis?
Postpartum arthritis can cause different symptoms depending on the type and severity of the disease. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Joint pain, swelling, stiffness and tenderness
- Reduced range of motion and function of the affected joints
- Fatigue, fever and weight loss
- Skin rashes, dry eyes and mouth
- Nodules or lumps under the skin
- Anemia or low blood count
Postpartum arthritis symptoms may start during pregnancy or labor and last for several weeks to months after birth. In some cases, they may become chronic or lifelong.
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, family history and symptoms. Your doctor will also examine your joints and order some blood tests and imaging tests to confirm the diagnosis.
How to Treat Postpartum Arthritis?
Postpartum arthritis can be treated with various medications, therapies and lifestyle changes. The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation, pain and joint damage, as well as to improve function and quality of life.
Some of the medications that can help you with postpartum arthritis include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to ease pain and inflammation.
- Corticosteroids, such as prednisone or methylprednisolone, to calm down your immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate or hydroxychloroquine, to slow down the progression of joint damage.
- Biologic agents, such as etanercept or infliximab, to block specific molecules that cause inflammation.
- Analgesics, such as acetaminophen or tramadol, to relieve pain.
Some of the therapies that can help you with postpartum arthritis include:
- Physical therapy, to improve joint mobility, strength and function.
- Occupational therapy, to teach you adaptive techniques and devices to perform daily activities.
- Massage therapy, to relax your muscles and improve blood circulation.
- Acupuncture, to stimulate your nerves and release endorphins.
- Hydrotherapy, to use warm water to soothe your joints and muscles.
Some of the lifestyle changes that can help you with postpartum arthritis include:
- Exercise, to maintain a healthy weight, strengthen your muscles and increase your flexibility of your joints.
- Diet, to eat a balanced and nutritious diet that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods.
- Rest, to avoid overexertion and stress on your joints and allow them to heal.
- Heat and cold, to apply warm or cold compresses to your affected joints to reduce pain and swelling.
- Support, to seek emotional and social support from your family, friends or support groups.
Here are some frequently asked questions about postpartum arthritis:
Q: Can postpartum arthritis affect breastfeeding?
A: Postpartum arthritis can affect breastfeeding in some ways. Some medications used to treat postpartum arthritis may not be safe for breastfeeding mothers or their babies. Therefore, you should talk to your doctor before taking any medication while breastfeeding. Some women may also experience pain or difficulty in holding or positioning their babies while breastfeeding. In this case, you may need to use pillows, cushions or nursing bras to support your breasts and babies. You may also need to change your breastfeeding positions frequently or use a breast pump if needed.
Q: Can postpartum arthritis affect fertility?
A: Postpartum arthritis can affect fertility in some ways. Some medications used to treat postpartum arthritis may affect your menstrual cycle or ovulation. Therefore, you should talk to your doctor before planning for another pregnancy while taking these medications. Some women may also experience reduced libido or sexual dysfunction due to pain, fatigue or depression caused by postpartum arthritis. In this case, you may need to seek counseling or treatment for these issues.
Q: Can postpartum arthritis be prevented?
A: Postpartum arthritis cannot be completely prevented, but some risk factors can be modified or controlled. Some of the preventive measures include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight before, during and after pregnancy
- Avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
- Exercising regularly and moderately
- Eating a balanced and anti-inflammatory diet
- Managing stress and emotions
- Getting enough sleep and rest
- Seeking medical attention for any signs or symptoms of arthritis
Postpartum arthritis is a type of arthritis that can develop after pregnancy. It can cause pain, stiffness and inflammation in your joints, as well as other symptoms. It can be diagnosed by your doctor based on your medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests. It can be treated with various medications, therapies and lifestyle changes. It can affect your breastfeeding, fertility and quality of life in some ways. It cannot be completely prevented, but some risk factors can be modified or controlled.
If you’re a new mom who’s suffering from postpartum arthritis, don’t lose hope. You’re not alone, and there are ways to cope with it. With proper treatment and care, you can manage your symptoms and enjoy your motherhood.