Being diagnosed with AS at 30 years old was scary for me, especially as I had no real clue what AS was. Since then I have learnt so much about it and even more since I became pregnant. With so many concerns and worries, I wanted to feel as confident as possible when speaking with any medical professionals about my options and I feel that arming myself with as much knowledge as possible helped me along the way.
I was diagnosed with AS in early 2010 after I had been suffering with increasing hip and spinal pain. Married in October 2010, I fell pregnant soon after. We planned to have a baby and although we were worried I have always wanted children so nothing was going to stop me, not even AS!
Knowing I would not be able to take pain relief whilst carrying our child, I turned to exercise. I took up pregnancy yoga very quickly and even did normal yoga classes. It's fine as long as the teacher knows they can keep an eye on you and give different poses suitable for pregnancy. I would always walk a lot before my pregnancy and so kept this up too and at home I would stretch as often as I could; in the shower; in bed, on the sofa; on the floor and in the bath. Baths were my salvation, a long soak worked miracles!
As the months went by and I got bigger, I did find it more difficult getting out of bed. I would wake in such pain and very, very stiff. Then I wasn't sleeping properly because I was worrying about waking up to being so painfully stiff! Eventually every time I woke in the night, I would get up and stretch and practice yoga poses. So, whether I was wide awake or half asleep, I would make sure I got up and I stretched for at least 10 minutes and then I'd go back to sleep. It really helped!
Dealing with AS in pregnancy is one thing; giving birth is another as any mum will tell you. I had an extra visit to the anaesthetist to discuss labour pain relief. The anaesthetist advised that even with AS I could have anything I wanted, unless there was a problem putting a needle into the spine, which they have to when giving an epidural.
When the big day arrived, we were like all new parents - excited, scared, nervous and anxious that everything was going to be OK. My main advice to anyone is not to worry and not have too many expectations. Take each day as it comes and when the time comes don't feel disappointed if you have to change your birth plan.
I wanted a water birth as I felt this would suit my AS best but in the end I needed an epidural and was so pleased when I had one! I was told by our midwives that giving birth was not going to be a problem at all as my pushing was really good and my hips weren't causing any difficulties. The only difficulty was that our baby decided to put her little hand on her little head and so she was delivered by forceps, nothing at all to do with my AS.
So, our first daughter, Lana Rose was born at 4.53pm on 29 June 2011 weighing 7lb 10oz, she is amazing and we can't wait to have another baby, hopefully soon! Having AS has not put me off growing our family and it shouldn't put anyone else off either. Good luck to any mums to be or anyone thinking of having a baby, be positive and remember you're not alone!
I have said to Sally, the Information Officer, that I'm happy for other women who are either pregnant or thinking about starting a family to get in touch. If you would like to get in contact then either email Sally give her a call and she will pass on my email.