Symptoms: Pregnancy or Lupus?

I'm happy to report that postpartum life with Lupus has been going pretty well. One of my biggest fears was that I would go into a flare after delivering, but so far, so good. I've had a couple of symptoms to contend with (which I'll describe in detail below), but at this point, most of them have subsided. I'm pretty sure they were pregnancy-related, but I couldn't help but wonder if Lupus was rearing its ugly head or not. It's hard to know for sure, but I didn't waste any time trying to figure it out on my own. With the appearance of each symptom, I called either my obstetrician or my rheumatologist within 24 hours - giving me peace of mind and a diagnosis almost immediately. I learned the hard way years ago that it doesn't pay to wait to call - why suffer unnecessarily, right?

Here's a quick rundown of the symptoms I was experiencing. You'll see why I was a little confused - there's a lot of crossover between lupus and postpartum:

Hair Loss - Thankfully, my sister-in-law (who has two kids) warned me of this years ago, so I was somewhat prepared for strands of hair to start appearing in the shower after delivery. But I have to admit that once they started falling, all I had were visions of my last bout of hair loss caused by Lupus - which left me with only about 30% of my hair. I'm not ready to cut off all of my hair again like the last time (see my previous post for details), so I'm hoping the loss will abate soon. It actually started a couple of days before I gave birth, and hasn't stopped since. The loss is increasing, but I'm still pretty convinced it's just the aftermath of pregnancy - as is my doctor. Nonetheless, we'll be keeping a close eye on it in the coming weeks. Keep your fingers crossed!

Fever - Although it's typical to run a fever once you begin nursing, I'm always on the lookout for low-grade fevers, which can easily creep up to over 100/101 in response to a Lupus flare. So when I started running a temperature of 100.3, I immediately phoned the doctor. When I listed all of my symptoms, she was able to deduce that I had an infection caused by breast-feeding, and immediately prescribed an antibiotic over the phone. I had the medication that evening, and within a day or two, my symptoms began to subside.

Swollen Lymph Nodes - Again, this is such a typical manifestation of my Lupus flares, it had me confused. The first time I called into the doctor's office, they told me they were clogged milk ducts, but upon seeing the lactation nurse at the pediatrician's office, it was confirmed that they were definitely swollen glands. Turns out that swelling was the first indication of the infection, and with the antibiotic, they slowly went down.

Infection - As explained above, the infection was caught early and has now gone away, but Lupites are often prone to infections - so I wanted to make sure it didn't get out of hand.

Chills/Sweats - I'm assuming these were caused by the hormonal changes occurring in my body, but I used to battle these during my flares. Also could be from the fever. Thankfully, they're almost gone!

Joint Pain - This is the only one that my doctor and I agree is a manifestation of Lupus.

One evening, I noticed a little joint pain as I was going to bed (I put it at about a "4" on the scale of pain), but when I got up to feed Deirdre in the middle of the night, the pain was up to about a "6". I found myself really struggling to nurse her because of the pain, and in order to hold her and burp her - I had to ball up my hands into fists to alleviate the pain as much as possible. Normally, I might have waited a few days to see if the pain would go away on its own, but this time there was a little munchkin's well-being at stake. What good would I be if I couldn't hold my little angel? So first thing in the morning, I was on the phone with my rheumatologist. We went over all of the symptoms I was having and he was able to prescribe a medication change over the phone, given the fact that I would be seeing him at a pre-scheduled appointment in less than two weeks. So, per doctor's orders, I'm still on 400mg of plaquenil a day, plus 5mg of prednisone. The combination seems to be doing the trick. provided I don't skimp on my long afternoon nap. I'm pretty sure that's why the joint pain appeared in the first place!

There you have it - the latest and greatest in life with Lupus (and a newborn). I'm hopeful that 5 mg of the magic little pill will be enough to keep a flare at bay...seems to be working so far!


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