The journey to parenthood varies for everyone. In the process, it creates a bond among families no matter how they became parents, whether this is the first or their last child, or whether the pregnancy was uneventful or full of challenges. Alex began her path to parenthood several years before she had her family. After years of pain and discomfort she finally discovered she had an autoimmune disease, Lupus, that can be managed and monitored while still being able to have children. Now a mom to a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter and a one-and-a-half-year-old son, Alex and her husband were surprised to discover they would now be adding dichorionic diamniotic (di/di) twin girls.
For years Alex had various symptoms which seemed to center around stomach pain. After two years, she had diagnostic surgery for endometriosis. The blood test prior to the surgery showed inflammatory markers in the high range, however, the surgery tested negative for endometriosis. Although she was happy with the negative test results she endured two more years of seeing specialists including gastroenterologists, urologist, and gynecologists before she finally figured out what was causing all her symptoms.
In 2010 Alex began experiencing severe joint pain all over her body making her feel like she was hit by a bus. When she could barely walk, her physician recommended a rheumatologist who months later finally diagnosed Alex with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or Lupus). The immune system is part of the body that fights off viruses, bacteria, and germs. With Lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system. Normally the immune systems produce proteins, also referred to as antibodies that protect the body from these invaders. Autoimmunity means your immune system can’t tell the difference between foreign invaders and your body’s healthy tissues. The Lupus Foundation of America defines Lupus as a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. The Foundation further defines chronic as signs and symptoms that tend to last longer than six weeks and often lasts for many years. Some common Lupus symptoms include extreme fatigue that doesn’t go away with rest, joint pain, fever, and muscle pain.
The diagnosis was bitter sweet because she finally discovered the source of all her medical issues, however, she wondered how Lupus could affect her ability to get pregnant. Alex wanted to have children someday so she was happy to learn that for most women with Lupus a successful pregnancy is possible. While there are risks of pregnancy in Lupus patients, less than 50% of pregnancies in women with Lupus have complications. All Lupus pregnancies are considered high-risk especially when you are carrying multiples. It isn’t always easy to plan a pregnancy, but Alex had no trouble getting pregnant with her first two babies which were well thought out and planned. She talked with her rheumatologist before each pregnancy who monitored her closely. Alex takes a low dose of Plaquenil which is a drug that is used to treat auto immune diseases and malarial infections. Since Alex has taken this drug long term with a pretty low dose, it is safe to use while expecting and she helps keep her Lupus from flaring up.
Her twin pregnancy
Her twin pregnancy is different than it was when she was pregnant with her first two children. During her first two pregnancies Alex experienced some lower abdominal cramping that sent her to the hospital for a few nights to monitor signs of preterm labor at 26 weeks. With this pregnancy Alex has experienced some of the same pain for a few days sporadically, but she puts herself on bed rest which seems to help a lot. She hasn’t had to be hospitalized and is almost 24 weeks along. Her advice to other twin moms with Lupus is to listen to your body. If you’re feeling overwhelmed take a rest. Surround yourself with supportive people including your partner, family, friends, neighbors – anyone who is willing to help let them help. This has been a tough pill for Alex to swallow since she likes to do everything herself. But by letting others help you it helps you have a better pregnancy.
Here are 5 tips that Alex would give another expectant MoM to manage Lupus during her twin pregnancy:
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Diana Coleman is a native Austinite and works in the wholesale electricity market as a market specialist. She is a married mom to 2.5 year old boy/girl twins Chloe and Greyson. She enjoys organizing, reading, and watching movies while secretly fears potty training and getting her little ones to sleep in separate rooms.
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