Can Pregnant Women Suffer From Gout?
Anytime we get sick or suffer from a condition, we tend to worry. But when pregnant women get sick or suffer from a condition, that worry skyrockets. Will it hurt the baby? Will I be able to take the appropriate medications?
Will I have to go on bed rest?
Gout is one condition you may be worried about while you’re pregnant – especially if you’ve had gout before or know it runs in your family. This extremely painful arthritis flare-up can last somewhere between 3 and 10 days, normally forcing the sufferer to take medication.
But I’m here to put your fears at rest. You will probably never get gout while you’re pregnant – in fact, if you’re a woman, you’ll probably never get gout at all! Read on to learn why:
Why Gout Is So Rare During Pregnancy
Though gout is a fairly common form of arthritis, it almost always affects men instead of women. This is why it’s often called the “disease of kings.”
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One of the reasons why women are protected from painful gout attacks is estrogen. Estrogen actually supports your kidney’s ability to flush out uric acid, which is the waste substance that causes gout.
We all already have something called purines in our bodies, and we also eat purines in some of our foods. When the body processes them, it creates uric acid. Normally this is excreted out of the body through the urinary tract. When it builds up, it can turn into something called urate crystals, which are sharp.
These crystals will end up in a joint and inflame the area. This inflammation is what causes the severe pain, swelling, loss of motion, and discomfort of a gout attack.
So when women hit menopause and their estrogen levels plummet, they are more susceptible to gout attacks than younger women (it’s still pretty rare at this point – only 4% of women in their 60s ever get gout.)
The opposite is true in pregnancy. Your estrogen levels actually go up, so your already low gout risk becomes even lower.
But Can Gout and Pregnancy Ever Go Together?
Just because something is really, really unlikely doesn’t mean it never happens.
There have been a few cases of gout during pregnancies. One scientific literature review on gout only found it mentioned 19 times in 8 women. The same researchers also had a case where one woman had a gout attack during her third trimester. They believed the pregnancy made her insulin resistant and this slowed down her body’s ability to remove uric acid.
As you can see – this is tremendously rare, but possible.
How To Prevent Gout During Pregnancy
If you are one of those very rare pregnant women with gout, multiple factors could have led to the attack. Here’s how to make sure they don’t become an issue:
- Go to your doctor appointments regularly and have them carefully watch for gestational diabetes. If you do get diabetes, follow all instructions carefully.
- Do not go overboard on high-purine foods like red meat, game meat, or organ meat
- Talk to your family and see if anybody suffers from gout – especially if they are younger women. Talk to your doctor about your concerns before you get pregnant or as soon as you get pregnant. They may want to monitor your uric acid or instruct you on particular steps to prevent an attack.
- Add a few extra cherries into your diet; they are great at reducing inflammation and lowering your uric acid levels.
Normally, there are some all-natural supplements that can help you both prevent and treat a gout flare-up. Top choices include: cherry extract, celery seed extract, chanca piedra, and hydrangea extract. But many consider these to be unsafe during pregnancy. Never start a supplement of this nature without talking to your OBGYN first.
If your gout problems continue after pregnancy, however, these supplements can be a great and safe option.
What To Do If It Happens To You
If you are a pregnant woman and believe you are experiencing a gout flare-up, it is essential to make an appointment with your doctor right away.
- First, your doctor will need to confirm that your pain is coming from gout and not another condition.
- Next, he or she will give you the medication you need that is safe for the baby or decide that you won’t be able to take medication through your gout attack.
Never start taking pain medications or any other medication before you have the go-ahead from your doctor. These can absolutely harm the development of your baby.
The other common gout self-care tips will be fine for pregnant women. These include:
- Elevate the affected joint
- Ice the affected joint (make sure you keep a washcloth or pillowcase under your ice pack to protect your skin, and never leave it on longer than 15 or 20 minutes)
- Use an assistance device to avoid putting too much pressure on the affected joint (a cane or crutches is helpful if the gout is in your big toe)
Whenever you have a gout attack, you should never drink alcohol. It can actually make it harder for the body to get rid of uric acid. But for a pregnant woman – this should not be an issue!
Gout and Your Pregnancy
May this article give you some peace that dealing with gout while you are pregnant is probably not going to ever happen to you. So cross it off your list of worries.
However, if you do feel like you are at a prime risk for developing gout, absolutely talk to your OBGYN about your concerns. He or she should be able to give you some practical steps to make it a non-issue.