Surprise Pregnancies (Jeanne Lawrence: dermatomyositis)

Article Highlights:
  • Jeanne Lawrence, 34, of Quincy, Ill., has dermatomyositis and three children.
by Miriam Davidson on June 30, 2010 - 4:53pm

QUEST Vol. 17, No. 3

Jeanne Lawrence, 34
Quincy, Ill.

After all the treatments she’d undergone since learning at age 14 that she has dermatomyositis (DM), Jeanne Lawrence was sure she’d never have kids. She’d taken large doses of prednisone, immunoglobulins, and Imuran (azathioprine), among other things. 

That’s why she was surprised and scared to learn, shortly after marrying at age 25, that she was pregnant. At the time, she also was undergoing plasmapheresis, a treatment that filters unwanted antibodies from the blood that's sometimes used to treat autoimmune diseases like DM.

Jeanne Lawrence's children
Jeanne Lawrence’s three children (from left to right): Cameron, Chase and Cassandra

“I didn’t know if the plasmapheresis would hurt the baby,” she recalls. “But the doctor read up on it and said, ‘Go ahead.’”

Lawrence had high blood sugar and pre-term labor, but was able to give birth vaginally. Her first son came into the world in 2001, five-and-a-half weeks premature and with pneumonia, but is healthy now. When Lawrence took him in for his six-week checkup, she was shocked to learn she was pregnant again.

The second pregnancy went much like the first. Her doctor put her on blood sugar medicine, which made her so light-headed she couldn’t walk. She went through another plasmapheresis treatment while pregnant.

Ten months and one week after having her first child, Lawrence had her second, a healthy girl. She again gave birth vaginally, without complications, although the baby weighed almost nine-and-a-half pounds. “The doctor looked at me and said, ‘You are planning on waiting this time [before getting pregnant], aren’t you?’”

Lawrence had a miscarriage in 2005, then underwent her third and final pregnancy later that year. “I was miserable,” she says. She couldn’t sleep, experienced some spotting, and her hormone and blood sugar levels were way out of whack. “I had to go to the hospital in Springfield for ultrasounds every two weeks, then every week. At 36 weeks, I measured like 50 weeks. The doctors were worried I had so much fluid that I wouldn’t be able to deliver the placenta.”

Lawrence’s last child, a boy, was born in 2006 via Caesarean section. He weighed more than 11 pounds and required treatments prior to delivery to help his lungs mature, but otherwise was healthy.

Lawrence says it’s difficult to care for her children. She suffers flare-ups of dermatomyositis and tires easily. “I sometimes have to crawl up or slide down stairs, and I can’t stand extremes of temperature. I have to stay inside a lot.”

She encourages women with muscle disease who are contemplating pregnancy to make sure they have good family support. “My mom was there for me through every pregnancy,” says Lawrence, who is now divorced. “I am very blessed to have both her and my children in my life.”

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