Well, a year and a half ago, we met an incredible young woman, Stephanie, and her husband, Andres. Now, for years, Stephanie has had chronic rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune and inflammatory disease. Now, she told me and Pfizer’s chief patient officer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, that she wanted to have a baby, even if it meant losing her life. Take a look. I’ve been living with rheumatoid arthritis for almost my entire life. I’ve been married to my husband, Andreas, for six years. I would be willing to risk my life to have a child. Dr. Freda, Stephanie’s concern about having a baby must be relatively common. Absolutely common, and many women are able to have successful pregnancies. What’s a good plan for women like Stephanie who want to start a family? The first priority is to get rheumatoid arthritis symptoms under control, and then have the understanding of what would be safe for you as the mother, and what would be safe for the baby in utero. We just want to start a family and– Sure.
That’s difficult. Well, Stephanie left here, really, more determined than ever to become a mother, and I’m happy to announce that Stephanie and Andres, are the proud parents of a baby boy, Santiago, now five months old, take a look. (baby cries) I love being a mom. It’s the greatest happiness I could’ve ever imagined. But being a mom with RA, it just takes it to a whole new level. (baby cries) It breaks my heart when I can’t do the things that he would want me to. One morning he needed a bottle, and my hand was stiff and I couldn’t unscrew the bottle. It makes me sad. I wish she didn’t have these pains, and she could experience being a mom like other moms. Sometimes I’m in excruciating pain, but he needs me. I’m determined to be the mom that Santiago needs. Every time I look at Santiago, he’s worth all the health risks I took. Well, joining me are Stephanie, Andres, and my good friend, Pfizer’s chief patient officer, Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, so welcome back you guys. (audience applauds) First, of course, let me congratulate you both on your baby boy. Stephanie, because of your rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, you knew getting pregnant would be risky, right? So, did you follow Dr. Freda’s advice? I absolutely did follow Dr. Freda’s advice. She told me to plan and coordinate with all my doctors. I had an entire medical team working together throughout my entire pregnancy. Right.
And then once I became pregnant, Dr. Freida said that I could go into remission, and I was very lucky, I did. And towards the end of my pregnancy, the last month, my RA symptoms did start to come back. So, Andres, how’s fatherhood treating you? Fatherhood’s been absolutely amazing. I know that even if she’s having a flare-up or having difficulty with her RA symptoms, I can count on her to ask me for help. So, Dr. Freda, now that they are parents, and there are other steps that Stephanie should be taking, correct? Absolutely; so, I just have to say congratulations, too. (audience applauds) Like Stephanie, some women may have RA symptom flare-ups in the months following delivery, which, of course, makes taking care of a newborn even more difficult. So, one of the first things to do, then, is to discuss medications with your doctor. Particularly, if you’re planning to breastfeed. Now, she mentioned that sometimes she’s having problems even holding her baby, is that common for parents with RA? It is; unfortunately, having RA, as Stephanie describes, makes even seemingly simple, straight-forward childcare tasks very difficult; picking him up, putting his clothes on. So, look for things that are helpful in relieving or reducing the stress on your affected joints. That can be a support pillow, or choosing simple clothes for him. And also consider talking to an occupational therapist for more tips and tools. Now, most new parents have little time for themselves and get little sleep. Is this a particular concern for people with RA? It is; I really wanna underscore this. So, for parents who are dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, it is especially important to lean on your support network. Ask for help, take the help, take your breaks, and, importantly, get enough sleep. And it’s also important to remember that people with chronic illnesses, like RA, may have an increased risk for depression, so taking time for both your physical health and your mental health is especially important. Yeah, and parenting and managing any health condition could really strain a marriage, so it’s really imperative that parents communicate with each other. You know, I agree. It’s a strain, having a newborn, for sure, but getting on the same page and making sure that you’re clear about what each other needs is really a good step in helping to ease some of that potential strain. Would you like to have more children? Yes, and I’ll coordinate with my medical team when I’m ready. That’s so great to hear. (audience applauds) Look, if you or someone that you know has rheumatoid arthritis and is considering starting a family, you’re gonna a find a wealth of information on gethealthystayhealthy.com. I really love this website, so I highly recommend it. And, of course, while you’re there, you can sign up for the monthly newsletter, and you can kinda see the first time that we met Stephanie and Andres. So, thank you guys, really, for coming back and letting us know what was going on. (audience applauds) That’s so great.