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May 18 2012

Pregnancy: A Surprising Cure for Crohn’s Disease

By at 10:12 am

Being pregnant has helped me put on weight, which is a good thing.Back when I was 18 years old and on my way to college, I had a very dramatic medical situation on a family vacation that resulted in some MAJOR surgery and a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease. Crohn’s Disease, an intestinal disorder that is very common among Ashkenazi Jews, has been a roller coaster for me since my diagnosis.

Before the disease I had always suffered from obesity, trying every diet on the planet to make myself lose weight. However, as the disease progressed, the pain increased and my weight decreased. In the past 10 years, I’ve had an extreme case that has caused me to see multiple specialists, try experimental therapy, and drop a scary amount of weight. The once rotund 16-year-old-224-lb-teenager morphed into the emaciated 113-lb-anorexic-looking-adult, causing family and friends to fear for my well-being. I had planned not to have children, for fear of passing on the disease, even though heredity is not a cause of the disease. It is one of those fun diseases for which there is no cause, no cure, and only maintenance.

My first pregnancy was accidental. I had been on birth control since my teen years (for medical reasons, not for sexual activity–which didn’t start until my 20’s!) and wanted to see the effects of going off it for a month. I went off the pill for literally one cycle and was waiting for the next period to start up again. That period never came, and all of a sudden, the idea of having a child became a reality. I miscarried after 11 ½ weeks, which was incredibly sad, but the upside of the whole thing was that while pregnant, I was healthier than I had EVER felt!

Most women experience morning sickness and fatigue during pregnancy, but for me, since I was used to dealing with both those things on a regular basis with the Crohn’s, I never felt any discomfort. In fact, those negative feelings actually disappeared, allowing me to eat food like a normal person. So much so, that even though I was never showing, I was gaining weight at a rapid rate. Naturally, I carry most of my weight in my stomach–seriously, I looked pregnant when I was in 4th grade! So, people just assumed I was (even after I’d lost the baby,which was kind of painful)–I had to keep telling people, No, I’m not pregnant, just fat! The Crohn’s symptoms stayed gone for about four months after the pregnancy (which is pretty much the time it takes for the hormones to go buh-bye). After that, I got sick again and dropped all the weight I’d managed to put on.

Cut to two years later, we tried for about nine months to get pregnant, but with my weight so low, it was proving to be difficult. I’m a teacher, so we tried to time it so that I’d give birth around April/May and then have the summer off. But, God decided I needed more time off than that and my due date is in September–meaning I’ll have the whole summer off, and then take another three months off before I go back to work in December.

With this pregnancy, the Crohn’s did not go away immediately, but after about a month, hormones kicked in and since then, all the symptoms of the disease have disappeared. Once taboo foods, like fruits/vegetables (roughage = PAIN!) are going down easily! Milk and cheese are amazing! And I haven’t had any of the urgent bathroom issues that Crohn’s usually inspires. I can eat everything and have been loving the disease-free life. In fact, thanks to pregnancy, the OPPOSITE has happened–sorry if this is TMI, but I’ve actually been constipated for the first time in my life. If you had told me before pregnancy that I would WANT to go to the bathroom more, I would have laughed at you–because I’d been going 6 or 7 times a day. But now, I’m lucky if I go once! Many of my friends and family have remarked that it would be awesome if I could just stay pregnant forever, or just become a constant surrogate, because living life without the constant stress of bathroom issues is so refreshing and freeing. If only they could put these pregnancy hormones into a pill.

I’ll admit, I’m scared that after I give birth, the Crohn’s will come back with a vengeance, and that horrifies me. Then again, so does the idea of pushing out this baby! I guess I’ll just have to deal with things as they come.

Do you know of anyone in your life who has Crohn’s and has had the same results? And why can’t they bottle these hormones to make the lives of Crohn’s patients easier?


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