For most women, pregnancy comes with a host of unpleasant symptoms like morning sickness or nausea, back pain, and insomnia. If you are suffering from fibromyalgia, which is actually more prevalent in women, is it possible for you to go through pregnancy safely, and without the unbearable pain?
There are actually conflicting ideas on the effects of fibromyalgia on pregnancy. Some experts claim that pregnancy can trigger or worsen the symptoms. However, some doctors say that pregnant women with fibromyalgia experience less painful symptoms.
Pregnancy Can Worsen or Improve Fibromyalgia
One study conducted in 2005 suggests that pregnancy can worsen the hallmark symptoms of fibromyalgia, namely pain, fatigue, and psychological stress. Karen Schaefer, Ph.D., assistant professor of Nursing at Temple University's College of Health Professions and author of this study, said:1
"This data is the first step toward gathering hard evidence of FM effects on this group and will hopefully help us identify ways to reduce the impact of fibromyalgia during pregnancy."
An earlier study, conducted in 1997, from Norway presented the same findings. For the test subjects, the third trimester was the most challenging period, with their symptoms increasing in frequency.
They also experienced postpartum depression. Nevertheless, their babies were healthy, delivered full-term and had normal birth weight.2
On the other hand, some physicians believe that people with fibromyalgia actually had reduced symptoms. There are pregnant women who claim that, after overcoming nausea and morning sickness, they actually felt better than before they became pregnant.
It’s believed that this relief is brought on by relaxin, an ovarian hormone that increases up to 10-fold during pregnancy.3
Dr. Daniel Clauw, a professor of Anesthesiology, Rheumatology and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, speculates that oxytocin, which is released during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, may play a role in relieving fibromyalgia pain as well. He says: "It's at least theoretically possible that some of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy make pain better."4
Regardless of whether or not you feel pain during pregnancy, it’s best to avoid taking medications at all costs. Some drugs are purposefully not tested in pregnant women, and their effects on you and your baby are unknown. If you do experience fibromyalgia pain, try pain relief methods such as stretching, meditation, yoga, very light massage, or even pool therapy. Get enough rest as well.
Fibromyalgia and Breastfeeding
While the effects of pregnancy on fibromyalgia symptoms still vary, one thing has been concluded: fibromyalgia makes breastfeeding quite difficult. This is mostly caused by the muscle pain associated with the illness. Some women also feel the fibromyalgia symptoms returning after giving birth. For this reason, you must make breastfeeding as stress-free as possible. Some easy ways to do this include:
Use adequate support, such as a pillow or sling, when breastfeeding your baby.
Try lying on your side with your baby facing you — it will make feeding easier while allowing your body to rest.
Nurse in a quiet area, away from other people, so you can focus on bonding with your little one.