Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep, mood, and memory problems. Pregnancy involves weight gain and extreme hormone fluctuations and these can put strain on the body systems, making fibromyalgia worse.
Many women often experience pain, discomfort, brain fog, and other symptoms that are very similar to fibromyalgia during pregnancy. A pregnant woman who has fibromyalgia may find that the physical and emotional stress can intensify the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Pregnant women with fibromyalgia may experience significant pain, fatigue, and stress, particularly during the first and last trimesters of pregnancy.
Pregnancy and fibromyalgia treatment
Very little research has been carried out on pregnancy and fibromyalgia and the information is limited. However, treatment and management of fibromyalgia often involves both medical and lifestyle changes.
The drug treatments for fibromyalgia include:
•Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen, naproxen, and ibuprofen
•Prescription pain relievers
Acetaminophen is often recommended for pregnant women to relieve pain, but a woman should not take any medications for fibromyalgia during pregnancy without first consulting a doctor.
On the other hand, a pregnant woman who is already receiving treatment for fibromyalgia should not stop her medications without first consulting her doctor to determine the best course of action.
Some lifestyle management for fibromyalgia treatment is still recommended during pregnancy.
Lifestyle measures include:
•Continuing any therapy for depression-related symptoms
•Eating a healthy diet
•Resting more often and as needed
•Exercising as recommended by a healthcare professional
A pregnant woman with fibromyalgia should be careful when using heat therapy to relieve symptoms, especially during the first trimester.
How does fibromyalgia affect the baby?
Despite there being very little data on fibromyalgia and pregnancy available, there is some evidence of a possible link between fibromyalgia and the following:
•Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), a condition where the baby’s growth is restricted in the womb, causing the baby to be smaller in size.
•Polyhydramnios, a condition where the mother has too much amniotic fluid. This condition is linked to preterm delivery, birth defects, excessive growth of the baby, and stillbirth.
In spite of this, most pregnant women with fibromyalgia give birth to a healthy, full-term infant. A woman with fibromyalgia is also less likely to experience preterm labour.
Considerations for planning a pregnancy
A woman with fibromyalgia who is planning to become pregnant needs to take extra factors into account.
It is important to have:
•A trusted team of doctors
•A support system of help throughout the pregnancy and recovery period
•The ability to rest as needed
• Nonmedicinal pain management and coping techniques in place
• Access to up-to-date research on fibromyalgia management and pregnancy
A woman with fibromyalgia may also want to spend time before conception focusing on her health and building up her strength and endurance, to ensure she is emotionally and mentally prepared for pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood.
Tips for caring for a pregnant woman with fibromyalgia
A pregnant woman with fibromyalgia may need some extra care, as pain and fatigue may become overwhelming or debilitating.
The person who is taking care of a pregnant woman with fibromyalgia should:
• Inform themselves about fibromyalgia
• Listen to the concerns of the patient
• Encourage healthy habits, including plenty of rest
• Help make meals and do chores during times of extreme fatigue or pain
It will also be a good idea to line up extra help for the period after childbirth, as the caregiver may find they will be busy taking care of the new mom and the newborn.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is related to arthritis, but it does not cause joint damage or swelling. Instead, it is thought to alter the way the body and nervous system process pain signals, intensifying these signals to the brain. Some brain areas are thought to become more sensitive and overreact to pain.
Fibromyalgia affects around two to five per cent of the population, and women are seven times more likely to have it than men.
The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but genetics and family history may play a role. Risk factors include a history of rheumatic disease or mood disorders. Infection and trauma may also trigger it.