I was just diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, and eventually want to have a family. What do I need to know about pregnancy with this condition?

Ankylosing spondylitis — a type of arthritis that affects the spine — doesn't appear to affect your ability to get pregnant. Although there seems to be a higher risk of delivering a baby that's premature or with a low birth weight, many women with ankylosing spondylitis also appear to be able to safely deliver a healthy baby.

More research is needed to show how pregnancy affects a woman's ankylosing spondylitis symptoms. Some studies have found improvement in pain and spine stiffness during pregnancy. Other research suggests that pregnancy may not affect symptoms much. Symptoms may worsen near the end of pregnancy, likely because of the additional weight and stress on the body.

It's not uncommon to experience a flare-up of symptoms after giving birth. As you manage any discomfort, you may find it helpful to have a support system in place to help you care for the baby after delivery.

Some medications you take to manage your ankylosing spondylitis — such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — may not be safe to use during pregnancy. Others, such as some biologic medications, may be safe, and you may decide it's better to keep taking them for all or part of your pregnancy to control your symptoms.

If you have ankylosing spondylitis and know you want to have children, it's best to talk with your rheumatologist well before you start trying to get pregnant. This will help ensure you have time to address your questions and concerns and adjust your treatments, if necessary. You may consider asking your pregnancy health care provider to refer you to a specialist with expertise in caring for pregnant women with ankylosing spondylitis.

Feb. 24, 2023 See more Expert Answers