Life with IBD

Luciana’s Story

Luciana has navigated IBD in three separate countries on three different continents. Despite the myriad challenges of the disease, she says that in every location she has been extraordinarily lucky to have found excellent doctors. But it was the medical team in Canada that gave her the ultimate gift — the confidence to get pregnant. 

Her journey began in her native Brazil when, in 2015, after a couple of years of suffering with a chronic pain and a swollen belly, the then 29-year-old made an appointment with a gastroenterologist on the recommendation of a friend (unlike in Canada, in Brazil you don’t need a referral to see a GI). After a colonoscopy, the doctor diagnosed Crohn’s disease and prescribed Pentasa — an anti-inflammatory that effectively treated Luciana’s symptoms, but at a financial cost. In Brazil her medication came with a $2,000/month price tag. As it turned out, Luciana only had to pay this for a short time. 

Three months post-diagnosis, Luciana’s husband Jonas took a job in New Zealand. She says, “This was a difficult and sad part of my life.” Moving countries, changing cultures and learning a new language is hard enough; facing a brand-new Crohn’s diagnosis with symptoms that included painful joint inflammation as well as needing to find a new doctor and navigate a foreign healthcare system made it all overwhelming. 

But Luciana prevailed. She found another excellent GI in New Zealand, and fortunately, like they are in Canada, her medication costs were covered. 

At this point Luciana and her husband had been together for seven years. Jonas definitely wanted children, but Luciana was so concerned about her health and that of any baby she would have that the possibility of pregnancy was completely off her radar. 

That all changed when in 2017 Jonas was offered a job in Vancouver and the couple moved to Canada. 

When they arrived on the west coast, Luciana’s first order of business was to find a gastroenterologist. She knew she needed a specialist to help her manage her disease, but she never imagined that her fateful referral by a walk-in-clinic doctor to The IBD Centre of BC’s Dr. Yvette Leung would prove to be a turning point in her life.

At their first meeting, Dr. Leung brought up the prospect of children. “She asked if I wanted kids, and I did, but I was so scared,” explains Luciana. However, she says Dr. Leung explained that because her disease was in remission, it was a great time to get pregnant. Dr. Leung also assured her that the Crohn’s medications would not pose a risk to the baby. “She said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s a good time and your baby will be healthy.’ She encouraged me. I felt relieved, and I knew it was time to go home and think.”

After Dr. Leung’s confident encouragement, it didn’t take much to persuade her or Jonas to try for a baby. Four month’s later, after a second appointment with Dr. Leung, a few more questions and more reassurances, the couple was expecting.

Dr. Leung assembled an amazing team of specialists to usher Luciana through her pregnancy. Aside from Luciana’s general practitioner and Dr. Leung, she was also cared for by an obstetrician-gynecologist and a hepatologist (liver doctor). Luciana says knowing there was an excellent team behind her who communicated regularly about her case provided peace of mind. She was able to continue on her Crohn’s medications and remained in remission throughout the nine months.

Thomas was born in May 2019 at 37-and-a-half weeks. He is a healthy, happy baby with an extremely happy, if tired, mama. 

For Luciana, the entire experience was an amazing gift. “For other women with IBD, I would say to consider having a baby. You will have so much support during your pregnancy. I knew I could count on my Canadian doctor team, I never felt alone, and I am so grateful to them.” 

Our goal is to be formally open and providing much-needed IBD patient care by early 2020. For more information, please send an email to info@ibdcentrebc.ca.