Fibromyalgia can be painful enough, but pregnancy will amplify the already persistent pain, stomach issues, achy joints, and chronic fatigue. This can make any woman (and their loved ones) feel helpless. Healing options are limited while pregnant, but there are options for relief with fibromyalgia and pregnancy.
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This article first appeared in The Fibromyalgia Magazine, February 2018. Get the digital copy of the magazine from Pocketmags.
Disclosure: I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post, but these are products I recommend and have verified and/or used.
My Reality of Fibromyalgia and Pregnancy
Having children of my own was once only a dream for me. From the time I started puberty, I had issues with my reproductive organs. Occurrences of ovarian cysts became more regular than my menstrual cycle by the time I was 12, and by 20 I was told by numerous medical professionals that pregnancy was simply not in my future.
It was disappointing to be told at a young age that I wouldn’t experience pregnancy or have children of my own. Of course, since I was young, I diverted my attention elsewhere and drowned my sorrow of this loss any way I could. Besides, I thought, if I am meant to have children during my life, then I will. Somehow or another.
Fibromyalgia Plus Pregnancy Equals Painful
Fast forward to today and my life is full of kiddos! My husband and I have four children, each of whom was unplanned. By unplanned, I mean I was told I could not carry children of my own and yet I became pregnant four times. Each pregnancy was different and the children are just the same – unique in their own individual ways. Despite how different each pregnancy was, one thing that was the same throughout each of them: the pain.
I wasn’t diagnosed with fibromyalgia until a year after my fourth child was born. It didn’t occur to me during my pregnancy that I shouldn’t be experiencing the pain levels I was. That the stomach issues, back pains, irritability, and other issues were more intense than a typical pregnancy. Had doctors listened to me the countless times I voiced my concerns, I would have been able to enjoy my pregnancies more than I did at the time, and I would have known there were options for women living with fibromyalgia and pregnancy.
Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do now to change how difficult my pregnancies were back then. What I can do now, is to help other women who are experiencing fibromyalgia while pregnant. There are options. You do have choices to safeguard yourself and your unborn child. Pregnancy does not have to be miserable and painful the entire time. Pregnancy can be uncomfortable, exhausting, and terrifying for anyone, but when fibromyalgia is added to the mix, it can be even more overwhelming and stressful. There are ways to get relief. Here are some tips and resources to help.
Tips for Fibromyalgia and Pregnancy
Try Natural Remedies
Medications are not an option for me due to negative reactions and adverse side effects, but there are other ways to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms naturally. These include using essential oils, magnesium lotion, melatonin for sleep, hot or cold therapy, moderate exercise, yoga, and stretching. A few fibro parents have said they had success with chiropractic care and prenatal massage.
Discuss All Treatments with Your Physician
Be sure to tell your physician any concerns you have. If you plan to become pregnant, tell him/her your plans. If you become pregnant, make sure you are referred to an obstetrician-gynecologist that will also work with you during this time. Despite the cynicism of fibromyalgia diagnosed by some physicians, there are physicians that are willing to listen and work with you. Give them a chance to care for you the way you need to be cared for.
Rest, rest, rest
A body living with fibromyalgia is a body that requires more rest and more breaks than other bodies. Our energy levels are already depleted, and pregnancy will drain them even more so. Be sure to take rest or naps more often, and take frequent breaks throughout the day. Neglecting this need will only aggravate your symptoms and cause more pain than is necessary. Stay ahead of the curve and listen to your body.
Catch some Zzzz’s
Just as increased rest and frequent breaks are important, so is sleep. And sleep seems to be impossible when pregnant, I know. The bed is uncomfortable and there is no easy position to sleep once you become further along in the pregnancy. Sleep is still needed though, no matter how difficult it becomes. Talk to your physician about natural sleep remedies such as essential oils or melatonin. If medications are something you’d like to try, ask your physician about safe medications for sleep while pregnant.
Form a Support System
One of the important strategies I’ve learned with fibro is to build a strong, solid support system. A group of friends and loved ones that understand – to an extent – my daily struggles, and are willing to be there for me when I need it. This could not be any more important when pregnant – before, during, and after. You are going to have difficult days. You will become overwhelmed. You will have to ask for help. If you don’t have a support system in place, get one in place now.
Stick to a fibromyalgia diet
There are certain foods to avoid while living with fibromyalgia. These foods include processed foods, foods rich in sugars, red meats, fried foods, wheat, and animal fats. These foods will increase inflammation, affect cognitive function, and can irritate the stomach. When these issues occur, it can cause your body to experience a flare in symptoms lasting anywhere from days to weeks, or even months. Instead, eat anti-inflammatory foods such as greens, sweet potatoes, or berries. For body aches, try tart cherry juice, and for energy, try apples, eggs, oats, or almonds. Herbal teas will also help with various ailments including nausea, exhaustion, and body pains. Eating healthy and every few hours (before you’re hungry) can help fight fibromyalgia symptoms naturally.
Resources to help with fibromyalgia and pregnancy
Joining a support group either online or in-person may be beneficial for some individuals. For me as a fibro parent, I have gained a lot of support from my fibro parenting group on Facebook. It’s a group of parents all battling fibromyalgia. We understand each other’s struggles, victories, and the importance of support. When there is an issue shared, we rally together to encourage and comfort one another. It’s a great way to connect with others and ask for advice without the fear of being judged, mocked, or belittled. Articles, research, and other resources regarding fibromyalgia are also shared in the group.
Articles and research regarding fibromyalgia and pregnancy are limited. Here are the few articles I’ve found regarding this under-reported topic.
- Leah Hutchison. (n.d.). Pregnancy and Fibro. Retrieved from https://www.fmcpaware.org/tips-for-pregnancy-with-fibromyalgia.html
- Fibromyalgia + pregnancy = It can be done. (2016, June 12). Retrieved from https://hopeinpain.co/2016/06/12/fibromyalgia-pregnancy-it-can-be-done/
- Popular Fibromyalgia Medication Could Be Linked to Birth Defects. (2016, September 12). Retrieved from https://www.beingfibromom.com/popular-fibromyalgia-medication-could-be-linked-to-birth-defects/
- Pregnancy & Fibromyalgia: Lessons Learned and Other Random Thoughts – But You Don’t Look Sick? support for those with an invisible illness or chronic illness. (2008, February 4). Retrieved from https://butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/tips-and-articles/pregnancy-fibromyalgia-lessons-learned-and-other-random-thoughts/
I only know of two books about fibromyalgia and pregnancy, and I’ve read one of the two. The book I haven’t read is called Fibromyalgia and Pregnancy: Book Three of the Fibro and Fabulous Series by Amanda Kimberley LB. It’s available on Amazon and has five-star reviews.
The book I have read is called Fibro Mama: Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia by Melissa Reynolds, and is also available on Amazon. Melissa has experienced multiple pregnancies and her book is largely based on those experiences, making it relatable and easy to understand. Prior to publishing the book, she conducted her own research survey and she includes those results in the book. Her resources are also listed and referenced to make them easy for the reader to find. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a firsthand account of this topic.
Pregnancy does not have to be a terrifying ordeal for someone living with fibromyalgia. It can be an enjoyable, beautiful, life-changing event for you and your loved ones. Don’t be afraid to speak your concerns, use the tips and resources listed above, and embrace this time in your life. Right now, this pregnancy is all about you and your unborn baby. You can do this. Until after your baby arrives. That requires different tactics, but that’s okay – I can help with that area, too.