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What is it like to be pregnant with Fibromyalgia?
Melissa Reynolds is a mama of two beautiful, busy boys who is trying to live, love and be well while living with chronic pain and fatigue. I write at Melissa vs Fibromyalgia to share what I learn in the hope of saving even one person the time and energy it took for me to find the information and enact it. My special mission this past year has been to share my research and experience in pregnancy with Fibromyalgia to counteract the gaping hole of information about it – my book Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia is on Amazon now.
What is it like to be pregnant with Fibromyalgia? For me, it was like putting my symptoms on overdrive and making my sleep even worse (which hadn’t seemed like it could possibly get any worse). For some, though, it is like a symptom holiday. For others, their symptoms remain stable. Like all subjects to do with Fibromyalgia, it heavily depends on context: if there is significant stress, time for rest, how your unique chemical makeup responds to the pregnancy hormones, and so on.
It is difficult for me to write about my experience of pregnancy and birth with a chronic illness, because my illness is invisible, it is often ignored.
In my second pregnancy, the pain was severe and my mobility was compromised by symphysis pubis disorder (an over relaxation of the ligaments, allowing my pelvis to spread too far which causes severe pain) but despite my trying to convey the depth of the pain I was experiencing to the midwife, the doctor and the physiotherapist, no one diagnosed it.
By the third trimester in both pregnancies, I was unable to sit for very long at all. Lying down was very difficult. In short, I didn’t get a lot of rest. There were many afternoons where I had to sit in a hot bath (up to my pelvis) and just cry due to the pain.
It is my mission to see that no woman experiences this – the double whammy of this pain and no one listening to them. I write so that women know there are options. So that they can advocate for themselves. This is why I write my blog, books and courses.
After two pregnancies and a lot of research, here are my six tips for pregnancy with Fibromyalgia (or chronic pain/fatigue):
1. Arm yourself with knowledge – knowledge truly is power
2. Get your body into the best place possible before conceiving
3. Prioritise rest and sleep
4. Nourish your body with good food and supplements
5. Get a pain management plan in place- discuss with your doctor what medicines you cannot come off, what you can and get your natural pain management mechanisms in place.
6. Make a plan for the final trimester, delivery and first six weeks that involves a good support system.
Delivery with Fibromyalgia is as unique as our experience during pregnancy. The research suggests that Fibromyalgia doesn’t impact labour. Though, we all know that what affects one system may or may not affect another. I went into delivery having had high levels of pain and very little sleep for the previous 38 or so weeks, so that was never going to help. I had two unique situations – a posterior baby (he was back to back and didn’t turn without help) and my second had the cord wrapped around his neck three times (unusual) – so my experience will not reflect yours. But my key recommendations are to:
1. Make a plan for pain relief in early labour (make a list!) so that you have things you can just start doing without thinking.
2. Keep drinking and eating for as long as you can, you need the energy.
3. Talk to the midwife/obstetrician/whoever is handling your labour early on about what to do in early labour and what you would like for pain management. I wanted to labour in the birthing pool but I had to be monitored and had epidurals both times – so make flexible plans.
4. Have a support person who knows what your wishes are and will advocate for you if needed.
5. Don’t let that support person leave after delivery – you will need support for the first few weeks. On the second night, the baby will realise they are not snuggly warm in their old home and will be overwhelmed – you will need help.
I hope this gives you a good starting point for what to expect in pregnancy and labour with chronic pain/chronic fatigue/Fibromyalgia. If you have had a baby with these conditions, can you share any other tips?