My first instinct was to abort…but I am glad I kept the baby!

I was 21 when they diagnosed me with Crohn’s Disease. It wasn’t something I, or my friends and family, ever heard of. But I was told that it meant my gastrointestinal system was severely inflamed in parts. It put me on a ton of medicines because I was unable to absorb nutrients any more. The medicines included immune-suppressants, folic acid, calcium, vitamins and a host of other things. I developed what seemed like an intimate relationship with the toilet. It was embarrassing as hell – I didn’t know when the need to go would arise or when I would be gross and flatulent. I stopped going on dates because I could no longer eat a lot of things or even drink a cup of decent latte.

So naturally, I had presumed that because I was diseased and wasn’t able to absorb nutrients, I would probably never get pregnant. What would the baby even get from me in terms of nutrition, right? And wouldn’t a pregnancy actually worsen my condition? With the disease having its own set of complications relating to diarrhea and vomiting, what chance did I have to survive the issues that come with pregnancy?

But then, one day, I realised I was pregnant. I peed on a stick, and sure enough, I was pregnant. My first instinct was to abort. And so I went to a gynaecologist.

She heard me out patiently, and instantly dismissed my concerns. She told me categorically that Crohn’s Disease, or any other disease related with an Irritable Bowel Syndrome is not contraindicative of pregnancy. She assured me that it was possible to have a safe and healthy pregnancy in spite of Crohn’s.

So I went to my gastroenterologist. The first thing he did was stop Azathioprine – the drug that was so far keeping my immunity suppressed and preventing any attack on my condition by my own immune system. Plus, it could cause malformations in the baby. But he said I had to be very careful about my diet and lifestyle if I had to fight Crohn’s with pregnancy and without Azathioprine.

I was already on iron and calcium supplements, as well as folic acid and vitamins. But because my disease had made me lactose intolerant, I needed more iron supplements. That made me constipated. And god, it was painful. The flatulence was killing me, the gas was giving me headaches. And I spent hours trying to get something to work. I could obviously not put any pressure, and it was hell!

So the doctor advised me to increase my water intake and insoluble fibre. But because fibre was not encouraged in IBS, I had to be careful about what I ate. I was told not to have fizzy drinks because they contain large amounts of caffeine. Since dehydration is anyway a problem in IBS, I was used to drinking a lot of water. I just had to increase it by a litre or two, And it really helped. For fibre, I fell back on peeled almonds and other nuts. Coconut oil and a topical anesthetic cream helped with the burning and pain down below.

As it happens with Crohn’s Disease, the constipation was followed by insane diarrhea. It was so bad that I almost camped in the lavatory. The doctor told me not to have any over-the-counter medicine because it could react with my existing pregnancy medications or harm the baby. So again, I had to fall back on natural supplements like bananas and kiwis. I also moved to a more bland diet – plain curd rice, dal chawal and khichdi, which helped me with pregnancy acidity as well as reduce the terrible diarrhea.

Ginger tea helped with the nausea, essential oils helped with headaches and general pains. I continued my calcium supplements through pregnancy because without them, I started having terrible pains in my joints, compounded by the pregnancy. My husband massaged my feet and legs regularly with some oil and that was a huge relief from those pains. Diluted apple cider vinegar helped with acid refluxes, as did yogurt and lots of water. Also, my doctors confirmed that it was the increased hormone levels in my body that were basically ensuring that my days were good and without any complications from the disease.

Yes, I have had difficult phases too. Stress is a major catalyst for worsening any flare-up of Crohn’s Disease. Being pregnant was extremely stressful for me, and add that to the general fear of whether I will carry to term because of the disease, and what you get is a trainwreck. I was a complete mess as far as handling stress is concerned. And of course this flared up my disease.

But there was nothing that a careful diet, a few extra supplements and some general, safe exercise didn’t solve. I was advised to walk around as much as I could to get my metabolism in order. I was given painkillers within a strict limit to handle any pain. I ate safe and as the doctor advised, introduced fibre one ingredient at a time to check if it was acting as a trigger.

I am due in a few weeks. Being pregnant with an irritable bowel syndrome has been tough, but not as bad as I had imagined. Sure I have had to take a little extra care, sure I had meltdowns on some days when I couldn’t handle the pregnancy and my disease both, but I have survived. Fetal checks on my baby shows he is fine too. And very soon, I am going to have a perfectly healthy baby, in spite of how paranoid I was.

So there, it is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby in spite of having chronic inflammation or ulcers in your intestines. You just need to be marginally more careful than other moms and you have to make sure you have both your gynaecologist and your gastroenterologist on speed dial. What other mothers can ignore, you have to keep a close eye on.

But it’s worth it. Because at the end of a long, fearsome pregnancy is a little bundle of joy.

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