My Fight with Crohn’s Disease
My name is Candace. I’m 37 years old and have had Crohn’s disease for 18 years. At age 23, I had a bowel resection which resulted in short bowel syndrome. I have been on home Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) since 1996.
In 1995 I was told, with Crohn’s and my poor nutritional absorption, I would probably not be able to conceive a child. A growing fetus requires a lot of nutrition and my body just would not supply enough to carry a fetus to term. My husband, Jim, and I accepted the fact we would not have any children and basically said “we’ll travel instead”.
As many women with Crohn’s Disease and absorption problems might have experienced, my menstrual cycle stopped for about the third or fourth time since I had Crohn’s. I thought to myself, here we go again, figuring I was becoming malnourished once again.
Over the next four months I felt fine, no weight loss, nothing unusual, just the normal abdominal pain and fatigue I usually experience with my Crohn’s, but no nausea, no loss of appetite. I continued my Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN) routine faithfully and took my medications. Everything seemed normal.
In the middle of April I attended my scheduled appointment with Dr. Kathie Koziol, my gastroenterologist. I had been through a lot with her, so she knew me quite well. She caught up on everything that had been going on with me since I had seen her last. She decided she would put me on some flagyl for a bacterial overgrowth in the bowel; however, she said “I think I will send you for a urine pregnancy test first, just to be safe”.
A couple of days later, she called me and said “the test came back positive”. She was quite shocked (I was too) so she sent me for a blood test just to confirm the findings. I got the call; I was definitely pregnant. Now the question was, how pregnant?
Still not sure I believed it, a few weeks later I went for an ultrasound to see how far along I was and the due date. As it turned out, there really was a baby in there, and I was halfway – 20 weeks pregnant. Still, no nausea, no noticeable weight gain, and I wasn’t showing at all.
Things moved quickly now. I had a lot of tests and check-ups to make sure everything was okay with the baby and me. I think my husband was even more shocked because I had not bothered to tell him the minor detail that I was not menstruating “again”.
Fortunately, everything was going fine with the baby. A little on the small side, but there was still time for it to catch up. I did get gestational diabetes so my oral diet was modified (no sugar at all) and I continued to do my TPN.
I saw Dr. Clifford Chan-Yan, my TPN specialist in Vancouver, to ensure I was getting enough calories to support the baby. I had a lot of Non-Stress tests (fetal heart rate) and ultrasounds, blood tests, you name it, I had it. Doctors were taking all steps to help me carry this baby to term.
I was feeling great. Besides being happy about having a baby, I had a great appetite, my complexion was rosy, and I was less bothered by any Crohn’s Disease symptoms – even the diarrhea had slowed down. Also, I began to show and people started believing I really was pregnant. This really was happening.
Then at 27 weeks, the worst thing happened, I got sepsis (blood poisoning). I was immediately hospitalized. Every step was taken to prevent me from miscarrying this child – careful administration of antibiotics and many non-stress tests as well as another ultrasound. The baby was doing fine, but my anxiety attacks reappeared (anxiety disorders are twice as common in people with inflammatory bowel disorders, studies have shown). I didn’t want to lose this baby now, not since we had made it this far.
The infection cleared up and home I went feeling great, and enjoying my pregnancy, thinking to myself, “I feel so good I could be pregnant always”. I didn’t even catch a cold or flu that year.
I went into labour at 38 weeks (2 weeks early). I had an 82 hour labour and the baby was born naturally with the help of forceps. He was 5 lbs. 8 oz. and beautiful. We named him Jason James.
Jason is now 3 years old and doing wonderfully. He is a very happy and energetic boy, doesn’t like to take too much time out for sleeping. I think he is afraid he is going to miss something. He was walking at 102 months, running soon after and ever since I’ve been chasing him. He is truly a gift and I owe many thanks to Drs. Koziol and Chan-Yan because if they had not decided to put me on TPN I never would have become healthy enough to have Jason.
Myself, after pregnancy, my Crohn’s symptoms resurfaced shortly after giving birth. Pregnancy really does take its toll on your system. I’m fortunate to have the TPN to build up my strength. I continue to see my specialists to keep the Crohn’s under control. Some diets have been shown to be helpful with Crohn’s disease, especially when the illness is in remission. Medical studies has shown that diets that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as the Healthy Dash Diet and the Mediterranean Diet may play a role in reducing bowel inflammation and also the risk of bowel cancer. I now follow a healthy eating plan with plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and oils.
The positive message here is you really can lead a normal life even with TPN and bowel problems.