What is osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint condition, meaning that it develops from wear and tear over time. It is most common in people who are above age 50, but being overweight/obese, or participating in high impact sports increases the chances that you could develop the condition at a younger age, and thus be affected while you are pregnant.
How common is osteoarthritis in pregnancy?
Osteoarthritis is fairly common in pregnant women with elevated body mass index (BMI), especially in those who are obese (BMI 30 or higher) and who have given birth at least twice.
How is osteoarthritis diagnosed?
Osteoarthritis is diagnosed based on presence of symptoms and signs such as pain, tenderness, stiffness, and loss of flexibility in joints as demonstrated by your medical history and physical examination, followed up by imaging studies, such as X rays and magnetic resonance imaging, and by blood tests and analysis of fluid drawn from the affected joints through a needle.
Does osteoarthritis cause problems during pregnancy?
Osteoarthritis symptoms such as pain, tenderness, and stiffness can worsen when your weight increases as pregnancy advances.
Does osteoarthritis during pregnancy cause problems for the baby?
Osteoarthritis does not cause particular problems for the baby, but there is an increased risk of falling, which in turn can be extremely dangerous for the baby.
What to consider about taking medications when you are pregnant:
- The risks to yourself and your baby if you do not treat the osteoarthritis
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are pregnant
- The risks and benefits of each medication you use when you are breastfeeding
What should I know about using medication to treat osteoarthritis during pregnancy?
Medications used for osteoarthritis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are used against pain and inflammation, and which should be avoided during the third trimester. Acetaminophen and paracetamol, used for pain, are thought to be safe during pregnancy. Additionally, an antidepressant drug called duloxetine may be given for chronic pain. It is not thought to be dangerous during pregnancy, although studies have been limited. Another approach to controlling osteoarthritis is to inject corticosteroid medications into the affected joints. Corticosteroids are generally considered safe during pregnancy.
Who should NOT stop taking medication for osteoarthritis in pregnancy?
Pregnant women who need acetaminophen or paracetamol to reduce pain from osteoarthritis do not need to stop taking the drug, because these drugs do not pose great danger.
What should I know about choosing a medication for osteoarthritis in pregnancy?
You may find Pregistrys expert reports about the individual medications to treat osteoarthritis here. Additional information can also be found in the sources listed at the end of this report.
What should I know about taking a medication for osteoarthritis when I am breastfeeding?
Acetaminophen, paracetamol, and NSAIDs are thought to be relatively safe in mothers who breastfeed, and duloxetine is not known to be harmful in the setting of breastfeeding although more studies are needed to know this for sure. Corticosteroids injected into joints generally do not spread through the body in very large amounts, so they are also thought to be fairly safe during breastfeeding.
What alternative therapies exist besides medications to treat osteoarthritis during pregnancy?
Physical therapy and specialized exercise programs can go a long way in alleviating the effects of osteoarthritis. Heat or ice may also help to reduce pain in some patients.
What can I do for myself and my baby when I have osteoarthritis during pregnancy?
Stay in close contact with your obstetrician, rheumatologist, and physical therapist. Work with your doctors to choose a treatment strategy that minimizes your paid with minimal risk to the developing baby.
Resources for osteoarthritis during pregnancy:
For more information about osteoarthritis during pregnancy, contact http://www.womenshealth.gov/ (800-994-9662 [TDD: 888-220-5446]) or read the following articles:
- Mayo Clinic: Osteoarthritis
- Arthritis Foundation: Arthritis and Pregnancy