Arthritis in pregnancy

Having arthritis won’t affect your ability to get pregnant. However, if you take medications for arthritis consult your doctor before you conceive. Certain medications can affect your unborn child, and some can stay in your system for a time after you stop taking them.

Arthritis symptoms during pregnancy

Since arthritis affects joints throughout the body, the added weight of pregnancy can increase pain and discomfort. This may be particularly noticeable in the knees. Added pressure on the spine can cause muscle spasms or numbness in the legs.

Water weight may cause carpal tunnel syndrome, or stiffness of the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. These symptoms generally go away after the baby is born.

Women who have the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may experience increased fatigue.

Treating arthritis during pregnancy: Medications

Talk to your doctor about taking arthritis medications during pregnancy. Be sure to mention all prescription, over-the-counter medications, and dietary supplements that you take. Some are safe to continue using, but others can harm your baby. Your doctor may be able to switch your medications or alter dosages until after the baby is born. Tell your doctor if you’re planning to breastfeed.

Arthritis during pregnancy: Diet and exercise

Sometimes, arthritis can cause symptoms such as dry mouth and difficulty swallowing, which makes it harder to eat. However, good nutrition is important for people with arthritis, and it’s essential to your baby’s development. You’ll probably be taking prenatal supplements, but you should discuss any problems eating with your doctor.

You should continue to exercise during pregnancy. Include range-of-motion exercises in your exercise routine to promote flexibility, as well as exercises that will help you maintain your muscle strength. Walking and swimming are particularly helpful for people with arthritis. Ask your doctor if your exercise routine is safe for your baby.

Arthritis during pregnancy: Pain relief tips

Follow these helpful tips to alleviate joint pain and stiffness:

  • Use hot and cold packs on your joints.
  • Rest your joints often.
  • Put your feet up to relieve strain on your knees and ankles.
  • Allow for a good night’s sleep.
  • Try deep breathing or other relaxation techniques.
  • Pay attention to your posture, as poor posture may add stress to your joints.
  • Avoid wearing high heels. Choose comfortable shoes that provide ample support.

Arthritis during pregnancy: Risks

One study found that RA increases the risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition in which a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and possibly excess protein in her urine. Rarely, this condition can occur postpartum. This can be a serious, life-threatening condition for both mother and baby.

This same study also shows that women with RA are at increased risk of other complications when compared with women who do not have RA. Risks include having babies that are smaller-than-average size or low birth weight.

Labor and delivery

Generally, women with arthritis don’t have a more difficult time during labor and delivery than other women. However, women with RA are more likely to likely to have a cesarean delivery.

If you have high levels of pain and discomfort due to arthritis, talk to your doctor before you go into labor so preparations can be made. If you have arthritis-related back pain, you may not want to lie on your back. Your doctor can help you choose a safe alternate position.


Many women with RA experience improvement during the second trimester of pregnancy, and it may last as long as six weeks post delivery. Some also feel less fatigued. If your arthritis was fairly mild in the first trimester, it’s likely to stay that way.

Researchers aren’t sure why some women go into remission during pregnancy. One study shows that women with RA are more likely experience relief from their symptoms during pregnancy. This is particularly true if they are negative for rheumatoid factor and an autoantibody known as anti-CCP.

Arthritis post-partum

Some women experience an arthritis flare-up within a few weeks following delivery. If you went off your arthritis medication during pregnancy, it’s time to talk to your doctor about resuming.

You should be able to continue to perform exercises that promote range of motion and muscle strengthening. Ask your doctor before engaging in exercises that are more strenuous.

Tell your doctor if you plan to breast feed. Some medications are passed on through breast milk, and could be harmful to your baby.