Tuesday, July 3, 2018

PREGNANT WITH SPINAL CORD INJURY ON A WHEELCHAIR

Hello loves.
Shall we have a moment for some real talk today?

As most of you know by now, I am pregnant and my husband and I are enjoying every moment of this journey.

One of the most common questions I have been asked since I announced my pregnancy - other than "WHAT IS THE GENDER OF YOUR BABY" - is, "How is it being pregnant on a wheelchair" (and other varying forms of this same question).
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Well if you've been following me on social media for a while, you'll know by now that questions like that do not bother me because I prefer for people to ask those questions rather than make assumptions or revel in their ignorance.

I do my best to live a very positive life and the main purpose of my platform is to bring awareness to how one can still live a very fulfilled life as a wheelchair user - or more specifically - as a spinal cord injury patient.

With topics like this one, I always admonish my readers to keep in mind that no two injuries are the same, and so therefore, my experiences would most likely vary from yours or that of someone you know with a Spinal Cord Injury. However, I do believe that you can always learn a two from whatever it is I have to share with you.

You can stop reading at this point and just enjoy the video I made on this topic for my youtube channel, or continue to read and enjoy the video later. Both content say the same thing in a nutshell, but I started writing this blog post before deciding to film the video.

Video

Over the years I have shared some parts of my life with you guys. How I drive my adapted hand control van, how I exercise and go to the gym, Traveling as a wheelchair user, and other lifestyle videos and posts on my youtube and instagram pages.

While I do my best to respond to every email, DM, and questions people ask me, I have come to realize that it's always best to sit down and make a dedicated post or video about certain issues so that I can elaborate more or direct people to those posts without having to repeat myself over and over again.

THAT reason is why I am making today's post. To address how it is being pregnant as a spinal cord injury patient.

Let's go back to the year 2008, right after my car accident (Watch THIS VIDEO for my story). I remember one of the questions I asked my doctors while in ICU was Will I still be able to have children? 
A question that made my doctor stare into my eyes and say to me,  we will just have to wait and see if your period comes back regularly my dear.
Till this day, I give all the credit and glory to God for giving me the strength and attitude to go through one of the hardest times in my life. I was only a teenager and had to somewhat come to terms with the fact that I now have a medical condition that comes with many issues, one being that I could no longer walk. While I had faith that my God could move mountains, it was still a pill I had to swallow in the moment.

Like a child waiting for Santa during Christmas, I waited for weeks in the ICU - not to walk again as I should have been focusing on - but to "see my period". I waited for the nurses to tell me that they saw blood down there and it was probably one of the hardest thing I had ever done. I didn't even share this concern of mine with family and friends because my physical state was already so poor that they had more "serious issues" to worry about. I maintained my happy stance and continued to put my faith in God.

 Well, one day, it happened! There was blood! I don't think I had ever been as excited to welcome aunt Flo to town. My doctors told me it was a great sign, and should everything continue to be regular, then my chances of having babies were the same as with every other healthy woman. I rejoiced and just kind of continued living my life.

I had to give you this back story because I believe it is necessary in answering the question at hand today.

Generally, most people (including my young self), are naturally curious about what a spinal cord injury diagnosis means for their sex life and possibility of reproduction. I have addressed this in previous videos on my youtube channel, but for the sake of this write-up, I will address it once again.

Ones sex life and chances of reproduction after a spinal cord injury is solely dependent on the level of their spinal cord injury.  

Other contributing factors are; what medications they are on, how much function/sensation they have, what kind of partner they are with, what their mental state of mind is, and what their overall state of health is.

For most women, after many research, I find that their mental state and quality of life after SCI truly affects their sex life more than their diagnosis or level of injury itself. Chances of reproduction however heavily rests on overall health and level of their injury.

For men, it is an entirely different topic I haven't spent much time researching on yet, so I would rather not speak on it.

Now back to me, because you didn't come here for science lessons.

After my period became regular and I continued on with medical treatments, physical and occupational therapy to regain a optimum quality of life, I finally could think again about what the future held with regards to my sexual life and reproduction. One of the next point of action I took after my accident was to visit my OBGYN as every woman should on a regular basis. Year after year, everything was good and my doctors had no cause to think I couldn't get pregnant.

I should mention at this point that I was initially put on some medications after my injury (as most people with spinal cord are) but over the years, I weaned myself off those medications with help and advice from my doctors because of personal convictions and theories I'd rather not get into (at least not in this post). It was HARD, I had crazy withdrawal symptoms and the weaning had to be done over-time, but I still believe it's one of the best decisions I ever made for myself. This may not be possible for you, and as always please discuss with your doctors before you make any medical decisions.
Those medications didn't particularly pose a risk to my health or reproductive system, but I was convinced I needed to get off them and I managed to do just that. They were meds for spasms and Nerve pains.
I embraced my spasms and manage them with stretches, exercises and just plain old tolerance. As for the nerve pains, they diminished after a while and I just kind of manage all pain with regular Tylenol now.

Once again, this may not be possible for YOU, so please discuss with your doctors before taking any drastic measures. No medications should be stopped cold-turkey. You will need to be weaned off or find other alternatives.

I have to address this issue because I would later come to find out during my research that some medications are contraindicated should you choose to become pregnant. I didn't have to worry about this when it was time to get pregnant because I wasn't on any long term prescribed medications.

Alright now, let's speed things up a little.
Years after my car accident, I got married to my wonderful husband and the idea of being pregnant became a reality. During our first year of marriage, we wanted to focus on each other so we decided on the best form of family planning for us. While we chose to wait to have babies, we had a healthy sexual relationship as husband and wife.
During our first year of marriage, I visited my OBGYN and expressed my desire to soon start trying for babies. My doctors were all amazing and said they saw no reason why this wasn't possible, but I still had questions for them. LOL

All of my questions were answered and I did even more personal research on the matter. My doctors assured me that I would be treated as every pregnant woman would be except they had reasons to treat me otherwise.
Note: Please ASK your doctors EVERY question you have. They are there to guide you and they know your medical history. 

Knowing that children are a gift from God, I prayed with my husband and then we began to actively try for babies..... and the rest as they say is history.

Here I am now, PREGNANT!

Prenatal visits after prenatal visits, I have been assured that everything is going as it should go and my being on a wheelchair or having spinal cord injury really poses no health risk to my unborn child. My doctors even said we would go for a vaginal delivery except otherwise indicated by the conditions surrounding delivery.
As with able-bodied women, Vaginal delivery is always the first choice and then if that seems as if it wouldn't work, C-section would be the next choice for childbirth.

Also, I have not really had any specific issues during pregnancy that we can say is because of Spinal cord Injury or the fact that I am on wheelchair.
All of the symptoms and issues that have surfaced are related to Pregnancy itself only.

This brings me to my closing point in saying that, for me personally, being pregnant as a wheelchair user has not been entirely different from life before pregnancy. I do get more fatigued, I experience more intense back pains when I sit for too long, I have to navigate life with a bigger belly and all the other things that comes with pregnancy, but I consider it all a blessing and as such, I can't really complain.

I have also gotten more frequent Urinary tract infections, but my doctor tells me that is common with pregnancy in general and can't really be blamed on intermittent catherization. The UTIs are treated with pregnancy safe antibiotics.

With back pains, once again, I take Tylenol and stretch myself (as much as pregnancy would allow) on my bed to relieve the pain.

Most people also ask me if I can feel the baby's movements... and the answer to that is, YES! I actually can. I have shared with you before that my spinal cord injury is considered Incomplete, so I do have some sensations below my level of injury. My initial level was a C4-C5, but over the years I have regained more functions and can be categorized as a T1-T2 Incomplete.
I have nothing to compare the baby's movement to, but I certainly feel kicks, and now that I am well into my third trimester, I can see those kicks on the surface of my belly too.

My experience so far with pregnancy tallies with what I hear and read about "pregnancy" itself. My doctor even jokes that I have it good because most pregnant women would rather sit than stand or walk.

Yes I wonder what it would have been like if I wasn't on a wheelchair, or if I actually had full sensation... but truly, I haven't allowed myself to dwell on it because once again, I am just enjoying  this phase in my life and thanking God every second that there are no complications.

I wanted to wait till our baby is born before sharing this, but the questions kept coming and I figured now is a good time as any to answer your questions.
I will do my best to update you after childbirth and share my experiences on that as well.

I take my life in stages and do not stress about the future. Childbirth, parenting and the future will take care of itself. Whatever comes, I am mentally ready and pray for the best.
Please join me in praying as well if you can.

Thank you so much for reading, and I hope I have been able to answer some of your questions.
If you have further questions for me, please ask in the comment section below and I'll do my best to respond.

Don't forget to follow me on Instagram and Youtube.

Till Later, God Bless.