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During the pregnancy

All pregnant women (whether they have arthritis or not) are recommended to have an ultrasound scan at 11-12 weeks to check the dates of the pregnancy. This scan can also be used to look for any abnormalities in the pregnancy but a further scan is carried out at 18-20 weeks to check that everything is fine.

The doctors choose this time because the baby is bigger and it’s easier to check for any problems then. If any problem is found at your 20-week scan, the doctors and midwives will talk to you about it and discuss the implications and options available to you.

Additional, more detailed scans may sometimes be needed in people with arthritis, for example if you’ve taken tablets or drugs during the pregnancy that may cause particular problems or if you carry anti-Ro antibodies in your blood. Read more about lupus and pregnancy.

Sometimes you may need two or three scans before the doctors can see everything clearly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’ll be a problem. Sometimes the parts that need to be seen may be hidden, by the baby’s hand for example. So don’t worry if everything can’t be seen clearly at first and you’re asked to return for a further scan.

Will I be able to do my exercises?

It’s important to keep exercising for as long as possible during your pregnancy. As your pregnancy advances and you gain weight you may find it easier to exercise in a swimming pool, where the water will help to support your weight.

Will the pregnancy affect my arthritis?

Most women get aches and pains, particularly backache, during pregnancy. The effect of pregnancy on arthritis varies depending on the type:

  • Most women with rheumatoid arthritis will be free of flare-ups during pregnancy, although they’ll probably return after the baby is born.
  • If you have osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee or hip, the increase in your weight as the baby grows may cause you problems.
  • Other disorders, such as ankylosing spondylitis, may improve or become worse – there’s no consistent pattern.

Will my arthritis affect the pregnancy?

Apart from lupus, most types of arthritis don’t harm the baby or increase the risk of problems during pregnancy. You should be aware about the possible effects of the drugs you take while you’re pregnant, as they can sometimes affect the pregnancy.

Read more about drugs, pregnancy and breastfeeding where there is a list of the common drugs taken and what we know about their effects during pregnancy.

Will my arthritis affect the delivery?

Your arthritis shouldn’t usually affect the delivery. However, if you have arthritis in your back or hips then moving these joints during labour may cause pain. Different positions can be used in childbirth which should allow you to give birth naturally, even if you’ve had hip replacements.

If you have a lot of back problems, it’s a good idea to talk to an anaesthetist about whether you should have an epidural for pain relief. It’s not always possible (especially with ankylosing spondylitis) to perform an epidural, but the anaesthetist will tell you about the options that are available.

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