Getting pregnant should be an exciting time, but for moms-to-be with IC, it can also be stressful. Though my oldest child was born nearly 12 years ago, I clearly remember my fears and anxiety of having a baby while also having IC. I worried how my symptoms would be throughout my pregnancy, what medications I would be able to take and how delivery itself would impact my bladder.

My concerns weren’t unique. Most IC patients considering pregnancy or newly pregnant have many of the same concerns. Though each patient has a different story and outcome, we’d all agree pregnancy and delivery are well worth it. I’m now a proud and thankful mom of two even though I had various health challenges with each pregnancy.

And while you can’t predict exactly how your pregnancy and delivery will go with (or without!) IC, knowing as much as you can about other patients’ experiences and research can alleviate some of your anxiety. (Just remember that what worked for one patient may not for the next. Make ALL decisions regarding your health and your baby’s health with your doctor.)

IC Symptoms During Pregnancy

The biggest concern is usually what will happen to your IC symptoms during pregnancy. The answer isn’t simple. There hasn’t been much research about pregnancy and IC. But there have been some data analysis and surveys done. One survey found more IC patients had either an improvement or no change in their IC symptoms while pregnant than had symptoms worsen. It also showed that while symptoms were often worse or increased in the first trimester, the second trimester had the most improvement of symptoms.(1)

That seems to be the case anecdotally as well. For both of my pregnancies in 2009 and 2013, I had increased pressure during the first trimester and then almost no symptoms during my second trimester. In fact, I could even eat and drink foods that would otherwise have bothered me. Kristy Zhe, a 42-year-old mom of two from Wisconsin, had the same experience with her pregnancies for babies born in 2014 and 2017. Kim Wayne, a 42-year-old mom of one in Illinois, had even better results during her pregnancy in 2010. She said other than a flare from a UTI, she was basically in remission during pregnancy.

However, not all patients experience any sort of remission during pregnancy. In the same survey mentioned above, 27% reported worse pain during the first trimester, 35.8% during the second and 27.6% during the third trimester. Within the group surveyed five women decided to terminate their pregnancies with two of them saying severe IC symptoms were why they did so.(1)

Aside from pain, urinary frequency (how often you need to go) and urgency (how badly you need to go) are affected by pregnancy as well. Even without IC, pregnant women often complain about urinary frequency. For IC patients, 60.5% and 72.4% had improved or similar frequency during the first and second trimesters respectively. The third trimester, however, had 56.3% of patients with worse urinary frequency than usual, which may just be par for the course.(1)

Urgency was like pain and fared better in pregnant IC patients. Among the 384 surveyed patients, 74.9% and 71.2% reported improved or similar urgency in the first and second trimesters respectively. The third trimester brought a bit more urgency, but the majority of patients (61%) still reported improved or similar urgency.(1)

Another thing to keep in mind is all pregnancies are different — even within the same person. My first and second pregnancies were different. I ended up on modified bedrest during the third trimester of my second pregnancy due to extreme pressure and pain thanks to uterine prolapse caused during my first delivery. Zhe said she was in remission during her first pregnancy, but in the third trimester of her second pregnancy her bladder was in an uproar. She worked closely with her doctors to keep the pain under control and reduce the stress on both her and her baby.

IC Treatment Options During Pregnancy

IC prescription medications

Another concern for IC patients considering pregnancy is what treatment options are available and safe while they are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. When it comes to medications, always consult your doctor. I found a difference in what my urologist and my gynecologist told me for medication. My urologist recommended I keep taking my IC medications and then stop when I got pregnant. My gynecologist wanted me to stop the medications before I got pregnant. I opted to go with the advice of my ob/gyn since that is his specialty, and I didn’t want to take any risks. Of course all medications bring some risk along with them. I did have to continue on my blood pressure medication, for example, which was something I’d needed for a few years previously as well.

None of the commonly used prescription medications for IC have an FDA rating of “A,” meaning the drug has adequate studies on humans and hasn’t shown increased risk to the fetus. You can find more information about common prescriptions for IC and their FDA ratings in the ICN’s “Resources for Pregnancy” section.

IC self-help treatments

You should also discuss non-prescription, self-help treatments for bladder pain or discomfort with your ob/gyn. My go-to for symptoms is my heating pad. My ob/gyn recommended only using a small amount on the lowest setting. Since I can have marathon heating pad sessions, I opted to not use the heating pad at all while pregnant. Other ideas for helping to reduce pelvic discomfort during pregnancy include exercising in water, wearing flat shoes with good support and doing simple and gentle stretches for your pelvic floor, stomach, back and hips.(2)

The IC Diet and Pregnancy

Figuring out what to eat

Maintaining a well-rounded, healthy diet during pregnancy is important regardless of whether a mom-to-be has IC. You want a diet full of healthy proteins, grains and dairy along with fruits and vegetables. If you can better tolerate foods during pregnancy, branch out and try small amounts of things that would typically bother you. For example, I found during my first pregnancy and the first half of my second that I could tolerate small amounts of low-acid orange juice, which is not the case any other time. Check the IC Diet list for healthy food choices that are usually OK for IC bladders to ensure you’re having a well-rounded diet. You can find some healthy IC friendly food ideas all sorts of places starting with the following:

Prenatal vitamins

Finding vitamins that don’t irritate IC bladders is tricky for some patients. Most ob/gyns recommend a prenatal vitamin for expecting moms to ensure your body gets enough of the vitamins you and your baby needs. I had no trouble taking the prenatal vitamin my doctor prescribed that I picked up at my local pharmacy. Wayne and Zhe said they were both able to take prenatal vitamins without causing increased bladder symptoms. However, a variety of IC friendly vitamins are available to choose from if prenatal vitamins are problematic for you. Be sure to discuss all vitamins and/or supplements with your doctor before starting them.

Labor and Delivery with IC

Another concern for IC patients is labor and delivery. I doubt any first-time mom goes into labor and delivery feeling confident. (I sure didn’t!) But preparing ahead of time as much as you’re able to can help.

Before labor and delivery

One of the best things I did before my first labor and delivery was go on a tour and meet with a nurse to discuss my concerns one-on-one. While I’d talked with my ob/gyn throughout my pregnancy about my bladder concerns and he’d treated me for a UTI, I still wasn’t sure what to expect in the hospital. Seeing how labor and delivery