Postpartum Arthritis

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Postpartum arthritis or just plain arthritis?

Oct 2012

So I am having symptoms of arthritis in my hands -- stiff joints, morning stiffness, noticeable difficult moving fingers at times -- and am wondering if at the young age of 42 I have begun to have arthritis. In the spring I had a baby and remember with my second baby having noticeably stiff joints, so am also wondering if it's possible that what I'm experiencing will go away.

But if not, wow, this is a real shock to me and I'm honestly feeling just so scared and worried. I can't imagine not being able to type -- I'm a writer -- or drive or even just play with my kids easily. I had no idea some forms of arthritis could be so crippling and am worried about an onset at a young age. Google is not my friend in this case as there are so many variables and too much information out there that might not even apply to me.

Have any of you been through this? Are any of you going through this? What treatments are you taking/undertaking? Have you had relief from diet? (It's really frustrating to see so many wildly varying opinions on the efficacy of diet change in treating symptoms.) Any words of advice or warning or comfort or wisdom would be so greatly appreciated.

Thanks! Stiff-jointed and worried

I had my second child at age 41 and also thought I was getting arthritis. My hands were especially stiff in the mornings and I had the same feelings about it as you. Before I got around to asking my doctor about it, my ob/gyn diagnosed me with severe Vitamin D deficiency and put me on very large doses. The pain went away within a week or two. What you're experiencing could be D deficiency symptoms. Go get your D levels checked--it only requires a blood test. feeling fine now

I have heard of this. I believe it's a hormonal thing. One friend who had this stopped eating all dairy and gluten and the pain went away. Personally, though I didn't have arthritis symptoms post partum, I have had achey joints in recent years, even though I was gluten free. I recently gave up cow and goat dairy and more arthritic pain. I have since learened that dairy can be inflamatory to the immune system. Arthritic symptoms can be caused by dairy intolerance, even if you've never had them before. Give it a and easy!! dairy, gluten, grain free and healthy.

I had a lot of joint pain after my daughter was born and went to my PCP. She said she suspected arthritis, based on my symptoms, but she ordered bloodwork just to be on the safe side, as joint pain and stiffness is also a symptom of hyperthyroidism. It turns out I had a major case of postpartum hyperthyroidism! (That also explained my rapid weight loss and insomnia.) Postpartum hyperthyroidism is actually fairly common and usually resolves on its own. However, it often swings down to hypothyroidism. My advice - go to your PCP, and ask to have some tests done to see if the joint stiffness could be caused by a thyroid imbalance or something other than early arthritis. Rachael

I sympathize with your fear. I had joint pain a few years ago and took forever to finally be diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I can highly recommend my Rheumatologist, Tracey Robinson, in SF. She seems better able to handle the funky not straightforward cases. The good news is that with treatment, I am pain free. I would strongly suggest you really try to figure it out quickly, and hopefully it will be a short term thing. I hear you on the diet variations, and it all seems anecdotal, so I think if you want to try and see which ones affect you go for it, but no one diet seems to work for everyone. I personally never got much relief from changing my diet, but I could never stay super disciplined with any of the changes. anonymous

My first child was born when I was 44, and within the first year I had disabling arthritis in my hands and wrists (I had no arthritis previously). It took awhile to get that diagnosis, however. I was misdiagnosed with carpal tunnel, tendonitis, De Quervain's, trigger finger...everything but arthritis. Doctor's assumed my problems came from holding and nursing the baby. When my child was a year old, my knees and feet became swollen and painful and I was finally diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I learned that RA is triggered by hormonal shifts, typically childbirth and lactation (and perversely, can go into remission with pregnancy). I would urge you to speak to your doctor and have him/her test you for RA, as the treatment options are different from osteoarthritis. As far as diet goes, even many Western doctors (including my rheumatologist) advise against gluten and deadly nightshades--onions, eggplant, potatoes, bell peppers (all peppers), tomatoes--as they can exacerbate symptoms of arthritis. Good luck! Anonymous

I urge you to get your vitamin D levels checked. One March I was having lots of hand aching in the morning and my mood was quite low. I must have not gotten enough sun that winter because my vitamin D levels were quite low. Apparently that can impact joint pain and mood. So get some sun, and get a blood check and if your vitamin D is low, ask the doctor if you should supplement and how much. Hope you feel better soon. Give Me a ''D''!

I had terrible postpartum arthritis with my second child. It was bad enough that I got tested for rheumatoid arthritis. The doctors in my life were not helpful, and it went away quite suddenly when the baby was about 8 months old, and starting to eat a lot of solids. In the four years since then my arthritis has been mild but increasing. Several months ago I essentially gave up eating any sugar for other health reasons, and found that it diminished the arthritis by about 90%. There seems to be a fair amount of anecdotal evidence that glucose contributes to arthritis - probably by increasing inflammation. Having a new baby is a very difficult time to adjust your diet, but you may want to at least give it a trial for a week or so. Feeling much better

I'm sorry to hear about your discomfort. I experienced what my chiropractor called post-partum carpal tunnel that affected my hands and fingers. Quite a few years have passed since then, but what I remember were tingly or numb fingers, and hand/finger pain. The ''exercise'' that most helped was this: roll a towel so that it is about a 4'' cylinder, lie down with the rolled towel positioned across your back roughly where your bra band would go (4-6'' below your arm pits). Extend your arms straight out from your body (at right angles to your torso), palms up, resting on the floor. Relax in this position for 5-10 minutes, 1-2x/day or more. The opening it creates in the shoulder girdle helps the nerves of the hands. I hope you find relief for your discomfort. Brenna

Hi there- You should visit your primary care doctor. They can check you out & run some basic blood tests. There are SO many different reasons for arthritis-type pains in your hands! It is worth getting it sorted out. It's probably temporary, but worth getting it checked out so that you can get on the right anti-inflammatories if needed. my 39 yo achy hands weren't arthritis

First of all, if you have ready access to healthcare, do go see your doctor to get checked out. BUT just to allay your fears, I am a bit of a hypochondriac and also freaked out when I had similar symptoms, reading way too much online, etc., and it turned out that my pain and stiffness were the result of repetitive movements. In my case it was the stroller that was the culprit. I walked everywhere with my baby in the stroller, up and down hills, lugging things, and it turned out that my tight grip on the stroller handles was really doing a number on me. So it may be a similar case for you of something you are doing with your hands baby related that is causing or aggravating your symptoms, or it could be clutching a smartphone or tablet, typing, etc. My mom has arthritis, and I find that I am also prone to stiffness, etc so do things to try and be mindful when my body tells me (using a standing desk for my achy knees that don't like bending at a table, easing off whatever device for the sake of my hands, etc).

Arthritis in hands and feet after birth of baby

July 2008


I'm wondering if anyone out there has had this problem. After the birth of my second child 7 months ago, I developed a problem with arthritis in my hands and feet. I have never had even a touch of this problem before, the onset was very sudden. It's significant enough that I have trouble opening jars and undoing my child's carseat buckle. My feet are actually worse. I go downstairs in my house like my 85 year old neighbor and hobble when I get up after sitting for as little as 10 minutes. I'm also starting to notice touches of arthritis in my knees and elbows.

My primary care physician (who I usually like) has not been particularly helpful. (she really wanted this to be a double case of carpal tunnel and plantar fascitis.) She did order tests for rheumatoid factor, several inflammatory markers and thyroid, all of which came back normal. I'll be getting a referral to a rheumatologist.

Has anyone else ever had this problem? Were you able to resolve it? I'm worried that I'll become increasingly disabled by this. Since I'm only 38 and taking care of two little kids, this is a pretty big worry. Stiff and Achy

I went through the same doctor went through the same battery of tests. I even had xrays of my my feet. We couldn't find an explanation. And then, it just went away -- nearly a year after I gave birth. I was 35 going on 36 during this time.

Can't give you any suggestions for 'therapy.' During that time period, I started working out with a trainer on weights. I already was a runner. By the end of the year, I was out of pain and in the best shape of my life (and, of course, promptly got pregnant again...) The pain didn't come back after the second pregnancy. -anon

I had similar symptoms after the birth of my second child. My problem was mostly with swollen, achy fingers, especially in the mornings, and a stiff-legged walk. I specifically recall researching post-partum rheumatoid arthritis! The funny thing is, I've totally forgotten about it since, because I also developed other bizarre symptoms (constipation, sensitivity to light, shaking hands, fast heartbeat) that I didn't put together for a long time. Only later did I discover it was hyperthyroidism. So, I don't have specific advice, except to ask if you have any other symptoms like what I describe, and if so, maybe get your thyroid levels checked. I was told mine is a hereditary form, but apparently it can be triggered by major changes such as pregnancy. --good luck!

I had the same problem after delivery, actually it hit me when my baby was 5 weeks old. I must tell you it was horrible, at the begining it was only problem with my feet and knees, but short after I had pain all over my body. I had problems getting out of bed, changing positions while sleeping, getting my self dressed or making up my hair, but the worst thing was that I couldn't hold my baby. But the good news is that there is solution I went to the rheumatologist and gave me medicin. At the beginnig I started with prednisone and then another one that I must take every day lifetime.

You will have a very normal life but you have to treat your disease otherwise it will get worst. Claudia

Something very similar happened to me after the births of my daughters -- my hands and joints were incredibly pain-ridden (I, also, hobbled!) It lasted a few months. I was convinced that I, too, had rheumatoid arthritis. But after a few months passed, it simply resolved itself. I believe it was related to hormonal shifts postpartum, which can go on for a long time, especially if you continue to nurse. It might get better over time. Stacey

i had the same issue. my knees and wrists were the worst. i couldn't get up off the floor, even, without so much pain. i, too, felt 85. it took what felt like forever until it resolved on it's own. it started to get better slowly, and was significantly better after 8 or 10 months. my baby is 16 months now and it's virtually gone, though i do experience occasional twinges of it in my wrists. my dr. and midwives chalked it up to a combination of fluid retention (i had preeclampsia), loose joints from pregnancy, and pregnancy weight gain, but i have to say it didn't really resolve in relation to the resolution of those things. i didn't know anyone else who had gone through this and felt like i might be crazy. i hope yours will resolve on it's own as well. i'm sorry you are going through this! i was 38 going on 85, too!

After giving birth last year, I also had trouble with my feet especially getting up in the morning. I'd hobble slowly to the bathroom and same thing going down stairs. I had RH tests done and came back negative as well. OB says something about pregnancy trigged arthritis and that a very small % of women get it. For me, it was resolved about 8 months later without taking any drugs nor treatment. anon

I just wanted you to know that you are not alone! I also had/have postpartum arthritis. I had my one and only at 40- almost 4 years ago. Had a normal, easy pregnancy. Almost immediately I developed the same symptoms you describe. I too thought it was carpal tunnel and plantar fascitis. My knees were so bad it hurt to walk. I also tested negative for rheumatoid factor but was positive for postpartum thyroiditis. I don't think my symptoms were related to the thyroid issue which has finally resolved-I'm off synthroid. So four years later I still have achey feet and hands but the rest of my joints have returned to 44 year old normal. Hope you feel better soon. Achy too, sharon

I was 42 when I had my first child, and I had pretty bad postpartum arthritis. My OB, who I otherwise like very well, shook her head and said she'd never heard of it. My regular doc told me to wait till the weight came off. In short, I got the impression I was completely alone in this, which apparently isn't true. I think the medical profession knows much,much less about women's issues, including the obvious ones like pregnancy & childbirth, than we realize (I don't think it's even occurred to anybody to ask the questions). I hope your case resolves as mine did. My joints were sore and mildly swollen for 1.5-2 yrs. I can't remember exactly, and I stopped telling anybody about it, but I know it was quite a while before I could even get my wedding ring back on my finger, and I had lost almost all the weight (I gained it all back and can't get the ring off now, but that's another story entirely!). Then, eventually, the pain subsided. But if it hadn't gotten better, I would have been complaining to all the doctors until something got heard.

After the birth of both of my boys my feet hurt really badly every morning when I would get out of bed. I bought better shoes with more rigid arch support. I also got a lot of massages. After one session where I asked the therapist to dig really really deep into my feet they felt mostly better ever after. After the first birth my hands ached in the joints and my knees. I bought flax seed oil and ate a lot of that (from the refrigerator section of the supplement section at the health food store.) It was liquid (not capsules) I put it on my salad and into smoothies. This seemed to be the thing that made it go away. I had been taking fish oil supplements during my pregnancy, but I seemed to need the flax -even though it is similar to the fish oil.

As a short term relief I would take piping hot baths filled with Epsom salt. I would put in several cups or more - just dump a bunch into the bath. And for my feet I would use those plug in vibrating foot baths with Epsom salt and essential oil. Mmmmm feels great! Heather