Coping with Fibromyalgia During Pregnancy
Let’s be real. Women in general have a higher pain threshold than most men – they routinely endure waxing and childbirth. This doesn’t change the fact that pregnancy can be difficult. It can be even harder if you suffer from fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is painful and exhausting to deal with under the best circumstances and pregnancy can make it worse. On the plus side, most women with fibromyalgia experience normal labor and have healthy full-term babies. To make it easier to get through your pregnancy with minimal discomfort it’s important that you have a clear understanding of fibromyalgia and how it affects your pregnancy.
Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia
It is generally accepted that fibromyalgia symptoms tend to worsen during pregnancy. This is not necessarily the case for all women and if you’re lucky, you might actually find some respite during this time. Unfortunately, many women experience increased flare ups or exacerbation of symptoms, which most likely is connected to the increased physical and mental stress of pregnancy. The severity of fibromyalgia symptoms can also vary through different stages of the pregnancy.
The first trimester can be a difficult time as your body has to deal with changing hormonal levels and early pregnancy symptoms like nausea and fatigue. In addition, some types of fibromyalgia medication may be stopped during these months, making it harder to cope with fibromyalgia symptoms.
During the second trimester, you should be able to breathe a sigh of relief. This is when most women, including those who suffer from fibromyalgia, start to feel better and more energetic. This is primarily because those pregnancy hormones like relaxin are getting to work. Of course, despite what some might say, this is no honeymoon period, and you could still experience body aches and pains.
The final trimester can be the hardest one to get through when you suffer from fibromyalgia. Research confirms that fibromyalgia can increase the likelihood of experiencing certain symptoms at a higher frequency and severity during this stage. This includes symptoms like fatigue, constipation, frequent urination, abdominal pain, nausea, muscle weakness, and lower back and leg pain.
Coping with Fibromyalgia during Pregnancy
Fibromyalgia treatment typically involves the use of pain medications and antidepressants, so these options will be limited due to safety concerns during pregnancy. Your health care providers will be able to best guide you in this regard. There are nonmedical treatments that can help considerably, however, and you can use such strategies to get relief from symptoms.
Exercise may be the last thing on your mind, but the lack of physical activity can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms and lead to muscle atrophy. Mild to moderate intensity exercises like walking, Pilates, or yoga will suffice. Just 20 to 30 minutes of such daily activity can counter the risk of severe fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy.
A balanced diet is essential for anyone with fibromyalgia as this can help keep a check on your weight. Bodyweight is an important consideration, as studies show that weight loss can provide significant relief from fibromyalgia symptoms. A diet that primarily focuses on whole foods rather than processed foods, such as the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet, will also reduce chronic inflammation and relieve symptoms.
Enjoy a Warm Soak
Soaking in a hot tub or pool can be extremely relaxing, not just mentally, but also physically. This is particularly helpful when you suffer from body aches and back pain during the later stages of pregnancy.
Take it Easy
Rest is essential for all of us, especially if you are pregnant and suffer from fibromyalgia. Make it a point to take breaks to lie back every 20 to 30 minutes in order to relieve pressure on your back and legs.
Stress and anxiety are often linked to flare ups and exacerbation of fibromyalgia symptoms. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can help to lower stress levels and don’t require much time or effort. Therapies like CBT can also be extremely effective for both pain management and fighting depression.
Asking for help when you need it doesn’t any less independent, it’s just smart. Get your partner, family, or friends to help with cooking, household chores, and any other tasks that may arise during and also after your pregnancy. Support doesn’t necessarily have to come from acquaintances and you can also reach out to online support groups for help, advice, or simply someone to talk to.
Fibromyalgia doesn’t mean that you cannot have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, but it can expose you and your baby to some added risks. With adequate foresight and precaution however, these risks can be mitigated. Just remember that your choice of health care provider can make all the difference, so find a supportive doctor who has expertise and experience in caring for fibromyalgia patients. This will make your pregnancy easier to bear and it will give you a lot less to worry about.