Postpartum Arthritis

What is Postpartum Arthritis?

Postpartum arthritis is the inflammation of the joints in women following childbirth. Typically, the specific type of arthritis that is seen after childbirth is postpartum rheumatoid arthritis.

Postpartum rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic auto-immune disorder that’s caused by the overactive hormones following pregnancy resulting in the body’s immune system attacking its own tissues, affecting the lining of the joints. While arthritis has generally seen to be suppressed during pregnancy, it typically flares up following delivery (within 3 months postpartum). Symptoms usually begin in the smaller joints of the body, such as the fingers and toe, and then often spread to the knees, elbows, ankles, wrists, hips, and shoulders. It is also common to experience symptoms in nonjoint structures, such as the skin, heart, eyes, lungs, and kidneys.

What are the risk factors for postpartum arthritis?

The following factors increase the risk for postpartum arthritis:

  • Obesity
  • Genetics (HLA class II genotypes)
  • Older age
  • Smoking
  • Women who have never given birth before are at a higher risk

What are the symptoms of Postpartum Arthritis?
  • Weight loss without dieting
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Pain and stiffness in the joints
  • Swelling and redness around affected joints
  • Limited joint motion
  • Same symptoms on both sides of the body
  • Muscle weakness

What is the treatment for Postpartum Arthritis?

Consult with your primary care provider or a rheumatologist if you have any of the above symptoms.

Treatment will target the prevention/reduction of inflammation. Physicians will often prescribe medication to reduce inflammation, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in the form of either an oral pill or a cream to apply to the affected areas.

Surgery may also be needed to fix any joint damage, depending on the severity of the condition.

Who can help diagnose/treat Postpartum Arthritis?
  • OB/Gyn
  • Primary Care Physician (PCP)