Ulcerative Colitis and Pregnancy

Right as I was coming out of that first trimester fog -and had just had the cutest gender reveal party thrown by my mama friends – I was in the E.R. following pregnancy bleeding. I was diagnosed with having a sub—chorionic hematoma and spent a day or so in the hospital. While I was there, I mentioned to my nurse that I had also noticed blood in my stool. This was the first time I had ever heard any one talk about pregnancy hemorrhoids. Apparently, it’s the one pregnancy detail that happens to MANY but talked about by NONE! Well spoiler alert, it didn’t turn out to be that…. But since I had no idea what else it could be, and that seemed like what it was most likely, I just carried on. There was also other symptoms but at the time all of them were easily mistaken as pregnancy symptoms, body aches and morning sickness. As I progressed into my pregnancy, that remained a symptom and progressively got worse. I decided to snap a few pictures, as weird as that felt- and show my OB. She was very concerned and said though it isn’t her specialty and she doesn’t know what it is – she knew that it wasn’t good.  She referred me to a GI. We did some blood work and samples and I was told that it appears to be UC and I was scheduled to have a sigmoidoscopy, since I was pregnant we couldn’t do a full colonoscopy at this time. The sigmoidoscopy showed inflammation as well as visible ulcers. They did a few biopsies and it was confirmed that I had active ulcerative colitis. I took medication and remained on limited activity for most of my pregnancy. Though I wasn’t on official bedrest from the end of March on- after being on bed rest for weeks, following weeks on being nauseous on the couch, my muscles had deteriorated and I felt super weak. Not the best way to feel as you are growing and swelling each day. My knees and my feet were hurting! My plans to be super active and fit during this pregnancy were over before it even really got started!

I had what I thought was morning sickness throughout the pregnancy. In hindsight, after battling UC while NOT being pregnant, it has become apparent to me that a lot of my symptoms that I had while pregnant that I assumed to be related to pregnancy, might have actually just been the UC.

If I had found an article like this and realized my symptoms were UC and not any other pregnancy symptom, I would have been able to treat it sooner! I can’t really complain though, because after becoming a member on various Facebook groups – I have found that a lot of people have gastro-related issues but aren’t able to ever get a clear diagnosis. I am grateful that we have figured out what is going on and how to treat it. 

When I delivered my baby, I went rogue and stopped the medication. It was weird coming home from the hospital with a new baby and all of the other physical changes you are going through and the lack of sleep you are getting while you run on pure adrenaline that first week! To be honest thinking about “colitis” and taking medication while I breastfed was just not on my radar. When I remembered I should be taking it, I just thought for a moment that with this crazy pregnancy I just had – maybe it really isn’t colitis and was just some off pregnant symptom. Also since the medication was working well and I wasn’t experiencing symptoms it was hard to see and really grasp that I really had UC and even what that fully entailed. I knew nothing about it really. 

It wasn’t until about 5/6 months post-partum, when all of the symptoms came back quickly. Before I knew it was in another “flare up” and would soon realize how common that phrase would become in my vocabulary! UGH! So we got back to the doctors, and I confessed to my doctors that I was a bad patient, in denial and hadn’t been taking the medication. This was during COVID, fall of 2020, so all of the visits were virtual, and I was just put back on medication, with additional enemas to control the symptoms. I was also put on a low dose of steroids. That was until I was diagnosed with COVID and told to stop the steroids right away.  I survived COVID with Colitis and a nearly 20 day quarantine with 2 babies!!! That experience in it self could be an entire separate post! Because of the amount of time I went of medication, this flareup lasted a few months, and by January when I had my followup colonoscopy, I was in full remission and everything looked good. 

Still living with this auto-immune disease – learning more and more each day and focusing on being happy and healthy and present for my family. 

My doctors referred me to the crohns and colitis foundation website, which I found to be helpful when first navigating this disease. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation 

I was really eager to change my diet right away (after sticker shock of medication…) and this website had a ton of information about different diets that work for people with IBS related diseases. We went agressively into the Plant Paradox Diet. A college recommended it to my husband, and with the cost of medication and this new overwelming disease, we were hopeful and decided to give it a try. I talk about that in more detail in this post. 

This diet was too much for me, at the time I didn’t know that I was struggling with Post Partum Depression as well, I talk about that in this post! This pregnancy has for sure been a roller coaster, and the pandemic for sure didn’t make things easier. Finding blog posts on Pinterest was a life saver for me, and partially why I finally put a blog together because I have a few stories to share that might bring some clarity to a mama somewhere and help  them to get answers and treatment sooner. Having a baby is one of the happiest times in your life and for me, this second pregnancy was my last, so I am still battling all of these emotions and dealing with physical complications on top of everything is a lot to deal with at times. But having an outlet like this really helps, and knowing that I might help someone else also brings me peace. 

Here are some more resources I have found helpful in my IBD journey:

A Journal to track your symptoms like this one really helped me. It helped me to see when my flareups were so I am able to if anything prepare for them. 

A weighting heating pad like this one is so amazing. I use it almost daily. 

This cookbook was the key to sticking to the Plant Paradox diet for me. Its full of super easy recipes that last all week. The chocolate “snack cake” is actually really really good. Its just a really tough diet to stick to.  Unfortunately the US grocery stores don’t really cater to a lectin free diet. In order to actually follow this diet, you need to spend a lot of money on groceries and live in an area where pasture raise options are available. But overall I respect the research of Dr. Gundry, and I do believe that the idea of “leaky gut” contributes to inflammatory bowel diseases. I think his books are great and though I am not mentally capable of adhering to his guidelines currently!!… I would love to work toward that in the future. The tricky thing about Ulcerative Colitis is that every disease presents itself in different ways, and different foods affect people differently. Then you add in the fact that anxiety and depression can also contribute to flareup or symptoms and you have a pretty unpredictable disease rearing its ugly head. 

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