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> > > > Charlotte's arthritis hasn't stopped her from raising a family

Charlotte's arthritis hasn't stopped her from raising a family

A young woman who has had to endure the pain of arthritis all her life is enjoying being a mum.

Charlotte Woodward, 27, was diagnosed with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when she was just 18 months old.

Growing up, Charlotte suffered severe symptoms, including stiff, swollen joints and pain all over her body. Her condition made life as a child and teenager challenging for Charlotte and she particularly suffered a lot of flare-ups in her knees.

"I couldn't do lots at school," said Charlotte. "I had to sit in during lunch and I didn't do much PE. It affected my mobility and meant I couldn't be very active.

"Over the last couple of years it's been worse than it's been for a long time. I've had a lot of steroid injections in the past 18 months."

Thriving

Despite her arthritis still unfortunately causing her difficulties, Charlotte is enjoying life as a mum and her daughter Lexie (four) and son Theo (one) are thriving.

Charlotte said: "The first time I fell pregnant they were about to put me on adalimumab but they delayed it until after my daughter was born. During my first pregnancy I went into remission.

"I was referred to a special physiotherapy session. They wanted to make sure that my hips would be ok for childbirth. I also rested a lot. I had consultant-led care, rather than midwife-led care.

"That gives you more reassurance and they can make more informed choices about your care.

"I then suffered flare-ups when my daughter was six weeks old."

Tough second pregnancy

Charlotte said: "During my most recent pregnancy my arthritis was horrendous. I had to have steroid injections in both knees.

"I took ibuprofen during the early stages of my second pregnancy, but then came off it. I found my second pregnancy pretty hard going.

"My son was born early and he had to spend a couple of weeks in special care. He's ok now, as is my daughter.

"During my second pregnancy, I was able to dance a lot to exercise. But then I had to stop because it became too painful to do that."

As well as being a full-time mum, Charlotte works at a hospital pharmacy. She also likes to help Arthritis Research UK by fundraising and raising awareness about arthritis and the impact it can have.

Advice for other mums-to-be

Charlotte has this advice for women who have arthritis and would like to have a baby or who are pregnant.

"After the baby is born you need to be prepared for flare-ups," Charlotte said. "That happened to me with both of my children.

"You need to make sure that you have your medication and plenty of help and support lined up.

"I think it's very important to ask for help when you need it, because struggling can lead to bigger flare-ups and then consequently more treatments.

"Your hormones can help you during pregnancy and this can offset your arthritis. In my first pregnancy I went into remission, but after your baby is born your hormones return to normal and your arthritis can flare-up.

"This can be tough because you're physically very tired anyway and this can make it difficult when you have a young baby. You do find ways of adapting when things are tough.

"With my second baby I couldn't hold him so much because I was experiencing flare-ups in my elbows and my wrists fused. I used pillows instead of holding him so much.

"You learn to adapt to what suits you best."

For more information about what you might need to think about when you start a family, read pregnancy and arthritis.

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