RA and Motherhood

The exciting new development of a resource to support women and their partners when contemplating having a family, supported by the Australian Research Council and Arthritis NSW.

For many women being a mother is one of their most important roles. Women with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), however, are faced with the challenge of negotiating the impact of their condition on conception, pregnancy and parenting as well as the impact of pregnancy on RA.

Arthritis NSW has identified a gap in resources to support women facing these challenges. Partnering with researchers and clinicians from Australian universities, a resource has been developed to help women make informed choices about whether to have a family or enlarge their family.

This project was funded by the Australian Research Council and Arthritis NSW and was conducted by Associate Professor Tanya Meade (University of Western Sydney), Professor Louise Sharpe (University of Sydney), Associate Professor Julie Pallant (University of Melbourne), Professor Nick Manolios (University of Sydney) and Mrs Diana Aspinall (Arthritis NSW). It involved a number of health professionals and women with RA and their partners in development of a Decision Aid (DA) resource. The project also tested the effectiveness of the DA in increasing knowledge about RA and motherhood and decreasing the conflict about which decision to make. The resource provides a ‘tool’ for consultation with family and health professionals. The information included in the resource is evidence-based and confirmed by clinicians, as well as enriched by the inclusion of women’s experiences.

The DA resource is a 45-page booklet that provides information about RA and its effects; the impact of RA and its medications on conception, pregnancy and parenting, the impact of pregnancy on RA, as well as fact and worksheets to help women make a decision. Two important points are made in the DA: the need to plan and consult with health professionals when contemplating pregnancy and that decisions need not only be whether to have or not have children, but to possibly postpone decisions until one feels healthier, options are clearer or timing is better.

To determine how helpful the DA is, 171 women with RA within and outside of Australia participated in a study to measure their knowledge and decisional conflict before and after having read the DA. This was compared to women who did not get to see the DA. Results found that the DA increased women’s knowledge about RA and motherhood and decreased their conflict. Importantly, many women commented on how necessary such a resource was and for those who already had children, how much it would have helped them if they had that information at the time.

Click here to access the DA It will be updated regularly to ensure that the information remains current.

Reference: Meade, T, Sharpe, L, Aspanell, D, Manolios, N. (2012). Rheumatoid arthritis and motherhood: development of a resource to support women and their partners when contemplating family, Arthritis Matters Magazine, Summer Edition 2012, p 10.