Amanda Osowski always knew she wanted to be a mom. Babysitting her neighbor’s kids as a teenager, “I remember standing in their kitchen one night after bedtime, thinking about how I wanted this so badly for my life,” she says. “I couldn’t explain the feeling then but looking back now it was that desire to be a mother—a constant, calming presence for others.”

© Burak Karademir – Getty Images
“For so many years, my body had only let me down. Now, here it was, doing exactly the thing I wanted so badly, this beautiful miracle. I was so thankful for it.”

Fast forward 10 years: Just out of college and adjusting to life on her own, Osowski began experiencing symptoms of what would turn out to be Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes chronic inflammation of the GI tract.

People with Crohn’s can struggle with symptoms like constant diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, low energy, and an urgent need to move bowels, per the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. The disease is marked by periods of flares, when these symptoms are active, and remission, when everything feels fine and symptoms may not even be noticeable.

While there is no cure, treatments can control symptoms and help keep them from returning. Osowski battled symptoms like these for more than six years before she was properly diagnosed. By then she was dating the man she’d eventually marry.

“Rick and I both very much wanted to have a family,” she says. “I was adamant about only taking things that would later be safe for pregnancy. Because I knew that once I found medication to manage Crohn’s, I’d try to use it for as long as possible.”

She was relieved to learn that Crohn’s wouldn’t impact her ability to get pregnant, though it would place her at higher risk for complications. For pregnant women with Crohn’s, doctors observe“the rule of thirds:” one-third of women get better during pregnancy, one-third will stay the same, and one-third will worsen.

“I was told my best chance of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy would occur if I was in remission, or as close to it as possible,” she says. “Before starting to try to conceive, I made sure the medications I was on and had been on wouldn’t negatively impact my baby.”

© Courtesy of Amanda Osowski
Doctors told me about “the rule of thirds” for pregnant women with Crohn’s: one-third will get better during pregnancy, one-third will stay the same, and one-third will worsen. Personally, my Crohn’s was well behaved during my pregnancy.

Planning for pregnancy

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To play it safe, Osowski consulted with a high-risk OB/GYN(also known as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist) who reviewed her regimen before giving her the green light to begin trying to conceive.

“It was helpful to have someone review my complete medical history and assure me everything was good to go. It’s something I’d recommend to other women with any autoimmune disease,” she says. “I learned the nuances of carrying a baby [when you have] Crohn’s, things to watch for, things we might be at higher risk for, and ways to make managing Crohn’s my top priority before, during, and after pregnancy.”

After trying to conceive for nine months without success, the couple was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. “I’m sorry,” her OB/GYNtold them, “but I don’t think you’ll be able to get pregnant without technological intervention.”

This led to four rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) followed by egg retrieval, and two embryo transfers before Osowski became pregnant. In 2019, their daughter Brooklyn was born.

“My Crohn’s was incredibly well behaved during my pregnancy,” says Osowski, who was in remission when she got pregnant. “I found myself struggling less with abdominal pain, bowel-related urgency, and frequency.”

A new appreciation

After battling undiagnosed Crohn’s for years and struggling to conceive, Osowski was surprised by the way pregnancy changed how she felt about her body.

“For so many years, my body had only let me down, caused me trouble, and challenged me with excruciating pain,” says Osowski, now 35. “While my body grew my daughter, I felt such gratitude towards it. Here it was, doing exactly the thing I wanted so badly, this beautiful miracle. I was so thankful for it.”

As an infertility and postpartum doula in Chicago, Osowski emphasizes the lessons she learned on her path to motherhood:

“Crohn’s doesn’t automatically mean it’ll be harder for you to get pregnant, maintain a healthy pregnancy, or deliver a healthy baby. There’s just more to consider in the process.” “Communication is key. Our bodies go through so much each day and we generally know when something doesn’t feel right. But trying to conceive and being pregnant are brand new things. If something is off, talk to your doctor. Make sure to get checked out.” “Connect with other Crohn’s moms. Lights Camera Crohn’s, IBD Parenthood Project, and IBDMoms are incredible resources.”

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