RA Remission following childbirth and breastfeeding?

Hi,

I wanted to share my wife's story with RA, and the surprise remission, in order to investigate if anyone else has heard of a similar case, and has any suggestions on how we can prolong her remission.

She developed RA in early 2013 following a stressful pregnancy and the birth of our first daughter. We can clearly remember the night she had this searing pain in her shoulder that came out of nowhere. Over the following weeks she developed swelling in her hands and feet and intense shifting pains in her joints. After a doctor visit, they arranged blood tests, observed a high RF figure, and referred us to a rheumatologist. We saw three, each of which proposed the same treatment - start on MTX, and prednisone as required, and reassess after a few months.

The MTX took her to a low point in her life, being continuously exhausted and in pain, whilst looking after a 6mo baby. After a few months it did relieve the symptoms moderately, but she was still in pain and fairly disabled. She read about concepts such as leaky gut, and decided to pursue a diet-based plan instead along the lines of the Paddison Programme, although not actually subscribing; she cut out all meat, dairy, gluten, alcohol, and nightshades, stopped taking MTX and any medication, except Prednisone for bad days.

Her fatigue reduced, and her condition improved. She was still in pain, but not as bad as before - she also started doing Bikram Yoga in the mornings, which was excruciating, but gave her more mobility to get through the day. We debated long and hard about when to have a second child, then nature took its course and she became pregnant again.

Now - any RA sufferers who get pregnant are probably familiar with the experience of having your pain switched off as if by a switch. She went through nine months of pain-free bliss, we had our second daughter, and then she enjoyed time with her whilst waiting for the RA to return.

But it didn't…

Our second daughter is now 11mo, but she still hasn't experienced the same kind of pain and disability as she did two years ago. We're unsure why this is - she bumped into her rheumatologist, who she's refused to see since she stopped the MTX, and he said he had never heard of such a case of RA remaining in remission more than a few weeks or months after pregnancy. She still has one or two swollen knuckles generally, but she can get up off the floor, jog, and many other things that were impossible two years ago.

We did theorise that perhaps it was due to hormones prolonged by the breast feeding - and sure enough, as she's gone down to two feeds a day at present, she had a strong pain in her shoulder, just as the first time, following a rich dinner and cocktail. She has stopped eating meat and dairy generally, but she's nowhere near as strict as she was originally, and is still much more mobile.

I've encouraged her to go back to some rheumatologists to investigate the cause of the remission, and whether it can be extended. It could be that she originally experienced severe flares and this is the latent level, or it could be that it is genuine remission; we're not sure. She is extremely reluctant to have any more tests or appointments - I suspect in case they confirm this is temporary and it will return.

I read a lot on the internet at the time, and there seemed to be studies around new mothers *getting* RA, usually years or decades later in life than childbirth, but nothing covering *remission* from existing RA.

(eg. breastfeeding.support/breas...

ard.bmj.com/content/68/4/52...

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articl...

)

Seeing as the rheumatologist seemed to think this was a rare outcome, I wanted to ask the community if anyone else has heard of a possible remission like this, particularly in relation to late post-natal or breastfeeding, and whether there's anything we can do to keep this going as long as possible.

Thanks!

Damian

8 Replies

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  • In my long years of having RD I have come across various people who have had a remission. Some of them have linked it to a particular event or to diet, or to other life style changes. But for most it just seems to happen, just as it just seems to happen to start, sometimes it just goes away again.

    But, for me, my remission lasted about 8 years, the rheumatologist saying that it had "burnt out". But unfortunately for me, it returned.

    I hope for your wife that it stays away for as many years as possible!

  • I was diagnosed with possible early RA about 9 weeks after giving birth. THe rheumy, an old timer, asked me if there was any chance of me getting pregnant again because he said, in his experience, if a woman gets its after childbirth, her best chance of going into complete remission was by getting pregnant again. He said sometimes the body re-sets it's immune system correctly the next time around.

  • Well tell us the answer! Is offspring No 2 on the way?

  • :-) no. I had no 1 at the age of 43. And after battling with rheumies for two over years whether I really have RA or not, and trying all sorts of different drugs that did nothing, I'm probably a bit too old for it now ....

  • You will reduce any painful condition by around 50% simply by cutting out meat. Meat contains prostaglandins which cause and increase pain. Painkillers like Naproxen and Fenopron are anti prostaglandins. Meat dramatically increases the level of inflammation in the body.

    Alcohol also causes and increases inflammation in the body, in particular beer and white wine, and thus pain.

    Those two factors would have contributed to the reduction in the RA. Also, many people are gluten intolerant. Yet again, this could have helped reduce the RA.

    My mother had a sudden severe bout of RA at age 31 with a high RF factor. After six months, this went into remission and did not recur. However, at around age 62, she developed severe angina and I cannot think of any other reason than RA. There were no contributory factors. RA does causes inflammation in the arteries as well as the musculo skeletal system.

  • I was diagnosed in 1978. I stopped taking drugs when I was pregnant with my first child in 1985, instead using acupuncture and watching my diet carefully, and was in drug free remission until 2007. A rheumatologist even told me I'd been misdiagnosed. And then it came back with a vengeance and I'm now on humira and MTX. I still watch my diet and use homeopathy.....and most people have no idea I have RA unless I tell them.

  • that's amazing Matilda. Hope you get another remission soon.

  • Do keep an eye on the swollen knuckles as unfortunately any joint damage done is not reversible and to me would indicate that it is not complete remission. I was much better during pregnancy and had 9-12 months after my first 3 children but only 3 months after the last before having to resort back to meds. Some people do find that diet plays a part in their disease but personally I have not found any difference. This disease does vary a lot between people. Farm

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