I may not be an expert on parenting, but I am an expert on my body. Knowing the triggers that my body reacts to is one way I help mitigate and manage psoriatic arthritis flares.
Having my first baby, I wasn’t sure how my body was going to react. You hear horror stories of patients having intense flares after giving birth. Luckily, I wasn’t one of those patients. I had my baby and my body reacted very well to all of the changes.
But the constant, 24/7 job of taking care of a newborn definitely started to wear on my body. I knew I had to focus just as much on my body as I did on my little one.
We’ll all have different experiences with our bodies and newborns, but the following are seven things I learned from having psoriatic arthritis and a newborn baby.
1. Ask for help
Many think asking for help is a sign of weakness. To me, it’s a sign of strength. Knowing your limits and knowing that you don’t have to do everything yourself is absolutely exercising strength. When you have a new baby, people want to help you — so let them! Especially with psoriatic arthritis, don’t feel like you need to take on the world yourself. Lean on others for help when you can. Your body will thank you!
2. Rest when you can
Before I had my daughter, the number-one piece of advice I received was to “get sleep while you can!” I laughed it off and just assumed I’d find time to sleep. I now know why they gave me that piece of advice!
One trigger for my psoriatic arthritis is not getting enough sleep. If I don't get enough rest, I’m setting myself up for a flare for sure. Having a newborn can make getting sleep seem elusive. But going back to the first tip, ask someone to help you watch the baby while you lay down. I know how hard it can be to tear yourself away from your brand-new baby, but getting sleep is essential for your body. If you can rest, your body can be ready to take on whatever your baby throws at it.
3. Continue to take your medications and/or supplements
It’s important to talk to your doctor about the medications and supplements you’re on before you have your baby. You want to set yourself up to be healthy and control your psoriatic arthritis, but you also want to be safe for your baby.
There are several medications and supplements that are contraindicated for breastfeeding. But there are many others that are perfectly safe to consume. Talk to your doctor and come up with a plan that's right for you.
A great resource to download on your phone is LactMed. I downloaded this app after my midwife told me about it. It’s her primary go-to resource to find out whether a medication is safe for breastfeeding.
4. Plan ahead for flare-ups
Speaking of medication, make sure that you talk to your doctor and have a plan in place for how you’ll deal with flare-ups. Many patients can flare up after giving birth, so it’s essential to plan ahead. You don’t want to be caught in the fire of a flare and not know what to do. Like I mentioned before, many medications can be deemed unsafe for breastfeeding, so make sure to talk to your doctor.
5. Don't forget your own wellness routine
One thing I’ll admit is I started slacking on my wellness routine. Yoga and meditation are two tools in my toolbox that really help keep me mentally cool and keep my joints moving smoothly. But, I'll be honest: Finding time just for me was hard! Not keeping up with my own wellness routine put me on edge and made me more anxious. Don’t follow my mistake. Make your wellness a priority and don’t skimp on what helps you!
6. Stock up on aids and products that can help you
Remember to support your joints. Buy all the pillows you can to help support your body when breastfeeding. Use a baby carrier to lessen the burden on your joints from carrying your baby all the time. And be cognizant of the car seat and strollers you buy. For me, my hands can really bother me on certain days. So I made sure to get a stroller that is collapsible without having to push any buttons. That way, if my hands are bothering me I can still use it!
There are a ton of great products on the market. Utilize these interventions and take advantage of their capabilities!
7. Give yourself the love and credit you deserve
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and to pick apart everything you’re doing. Remember that there is so much going on in your life and you're doing the best you can. Practicing self-love and self-talk will help you and your baby!
Take a deep breath and give yourself the credit you absolutely deserve. You're doing so well, mama! Keep it up!