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Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood - by Suzie Edward May



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Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood

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For those people who make the momentous decision to start a family, there is a plethora of books offering guidance on everything from the planning stage through to conception, pregnancy, birth and the crucial first few years of the baby’s life.  But, until now, there has been no resource for women and men living with arthritis that honestly and comprehensively discusses the steps necessary to take on their often challenging path to parenthood.


The long term pain endured by Australians living with arthritis – and the economic burden on the community – was recognised by the federal government in 2002 when Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Conditions became a National Health Priority. Currently, there are almost four million Australians living with arthritis and it is estimated the prevalence will increase to seven million by 2050.


In my role as Chief Executive Officer of Arthritis Australia, I am constantly reminded of the importance of continued education to all levels of the community about arthritis.  Unfortunately, the prevalence, impact and cost of arthritis to our society is misunderstood, as is the perception of who it affects.  As children, adolescents, young adults and the elderly continue to be diagnosed with the many different forms of arthritis, it is essential that we, as a community, understand the impact of this disease on each group of people.


Arthritis Australia is dedicated to ensuring accurate and relevant support and information is provided to people with arthritis as well as to their families and friends.  We raise community awareness of the challenges facing people with arthritis and educate leaders in business, industry, and government.  We also aim to keep health professionals such as GPs, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and community nurses informed about the very real and significant impact of arthritis on those who are living with the often debilitating effects of the more than 100 diseases under the umbrella term ‘arthritis’.

This unique book, written by Suzie May, a young Australian mother with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), fills a significant gap in arthritis information.  It addresses pre-conception, pregnancy and parenthood for people living with chronic arthritis – issues that are complex and have to be faced, such as whether to have a child, preparation for and during pregnancy, the post-birth flare and feeding, and caring for a baby up to 12 months of age.

At 28 years of age, Suzie was diagnosed with RA and told she could not have children while taking the cocktail of medications she needed to control her disease.  As Suzie’s illness spread to every joint in her body, she learned how to live with daily pain. She also came to accept the need for medications to allow her to function.  While Suzie knew she would need to jump hurdles to make her dream of becoming a mother (and her husband, Chris, a father) a reality, she was not prepared for the tremendous physical and emotional path she would need to take to make it happen.

In 2006, Suzie embarked on the courageous journey of coming off her regular arthritis medications in order to become pregnant.  This proved to be a difficult process, followed by a debilitating post-birth flare seven days after her son was born. Suzie’s first few months of motherhood were shadowed by such physical pain and immobility that even picking up her son or changing his nappy caused her difficulty. 

However, the love for her child and husband, and the determination to not allow RA to dictate her life, led her back to the path to parenthood in 2009. As I write, Suzie is eight and a half months pregnant with her second child and has experienced severe flaring of her symptoms throughout her term.

In Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood, the experiences of both Suzie and other women and men living with arthritis from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States of America and the United Kingdom are shared with you.  Suzie does not spare the reader the often harsh realities of this journey, nor does she ignore the incredible moments of joy and love.


This impressive book contains essential, practical information and offers true inspiration from Suzie and the other women and men who have shared their stories.  The reader is constantly reminded of the courage – often confronted in isolation – which a chronic illness such as arthritis demands.


Written by a woman who lives with the daily struggles of arthritis, this book achieves her aim of providing an inspiring story and practical self-help guide that assists others to feel less alone.  Suzie’s honesty and openness immediately engages the reader and brings comfort to those who have walked or will walk a similar path.


There is no doubt Arthritis, pregnancy and the path to parenthood fills a long-needed void in arthritis information within Australia and further afield.  This book should be mandatory reading – not just for those who are living with arthritis or a chronic illness who may be thinking of having a baby, but for everyone who is going to be part of or touched by this experience, such as partners, families, friends and work colleagues.


Suzie makes it clear that while arthritis may affect every corner of your life, it does not need to control what you do, only how you do it.  Her two year old son and his soon to be born sibling are living testimony to this positive and resourceful attitude.


I am honoured to write the foreword to what I believe is a very important book.  I am equally honoured to have the opportunity of meeting Suzie and sharing her path to parenthood and beyond.



Ainslie Cahill

Chief Executive Officer

Arthritis Australia



Reviewed and updated June 2012




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