Since fibromyalgia largely affects women, it is disheartening that there is a lack of information regarding the course of the disorder during pregnancy. Few studies have been conducted to investigate how pregnancy aggravates fibromyalgia symptoms or vice versa. If you are considering getting pregnant or embarking on your second or third pregnancy, you likely have pertinent questions that you need answered. There is no large body of resources to draw from when making these types of life-altering decisions but there is common knowledge.
A study reports that women with fibromyalgia will experience worsening of their symptoms during pregnancy. Karen M. Schaefer, assistant professor of nursing at Temple University mailed a questionnaire to a group of female fibromyalgia sufferers aged 29 to 31 in their third trimester of pregnancy. The questionnaire asked about fatigue, depression, pain levels and daily functioning. Another form documented the age, marital status, education, medications and sleep patterns of the women. The women involved in the study reported increased stiffness, pain and tiredness levels. The conclusion was that fibromyalgia sufferers had a great deal more difficulty in pregnancy in comparison to women without FMS. This study corroborates earlier research conducted in Norway that found women with fibromyalgia had aggravated fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy.
The Familiarity of Pain
Some doctors argue that certain fibromyalgia symptoms disappear during pregnancy due to changes in a woman’s hormones. They have found that women have the typical pregnancy symptoms of morning sickness, headaches, and dizziness in the first trimester but may suffer flares in fibromyalgia symptoms in the third trimester. Women with fibromyalgia may already be familiar with the aches and pains they will experience in pregnancy because of the widespread pain of fibromyalgia.
Studies have also shown that more women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia when they are pregnant. This is not to say that all women who are pregnant are at risk of developing fibromyalgia. Rather, women who are genetically predisposed to fibromyalgia are more likely to develop the symptoms of fibromyalgia when they are pregnant.
Changes in Medication
Many doctors advise their fibromyalgia patients to discontinue their medications during pregnancy. No medications have been found to be completely safe for a pregnant woman. Fibromyalgia patients that are planning to become pregnant are weaned off antidepressants, pain medications, and herbal supplements prior to pregnancy. The critical time in the development of your baby is the first four to six weeks. This is why it is advisable to plan your pregnancy at least a year in advance so you can arrange when you will discontinue your medications. Doctors agree that the best treatment for chronic pain during pregnancy is exercise, massage therapy, meditation, rest and relaxation.
What is Safe Treatment for my Pregnancy?
Natural and soothing forms of exercise are suitable for pregnant women, especially those with fibromyalgia. Some of these exercises may include yoga, aquatic exercise, pilates and stretching, especially back stretching. If you are seeking massage therapy, doctors advise finding someone who is familiar with the widespread pain of fibromyalgia and can perform massage safely on a pregnant woman.
You can also indulge in the soothing of heat therapy, like a warm bath, but the temperature of the water should not exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. As well, electric heating pads and blankets are not permitted to pregnant fibromyalgia patients. Pregnant women should avoid alcohol, smoking and caffeine during their pregnancy.
Doctors advise continuing physical therapy after the birth of your baby to ward off pain and depression. Due to fluctuation of hormones during pregnancy, some of your ligaments and muscles may have softened which could be a potential cause for pain. It is important to get into a home routine and to get enough sleep. Take advantage of help from family and friends.
Women with fibromyalgia need to consider the issue of breastfeeding as this affects medication use and sleep schedule. If you are breastfeeding, you need to know what medications you are taking and how they will affect your baby. Also, breastfeeding may keep you up with your baby at all hours of the night and your partner cannot take over for you. If you suffer from sleep problems, this may make getting adequate rest troublesome for you. Discuss all the pros and cons of breastfeeding with your partner and health care provider to decide what is right for you.