When I was pregnant with my first son in 2013, there was so little information available about pregnancy with fibromyalgia, that I felt totally lost. Even the so called specialists I dealt with knew little. One doctor told me pregnancy should make the fibromyalgia symptoms better. It didn’t. Pregnancy, for me, is like supercharging the fibromyalgia.
When I was pregnant with my second son in 2016, there was a little more literature, and I had all of my knowledge, hard gained from my first pregnancy. This really made it more tolerable. I think most women would agree that subsequent pregnancies, whether better or worse in experience, feel better for knowing what to expect.
Throughout both pregnancies I wrote up my diaries on my blog. Using the information I researched and my experience, I created posts about dealing with all of the trimesters, nursing, the first six weeks and parenting with fibromyalgia. Once I had my brain fully back and a little time off from the children a few months ago, I decided to edit my work into a book. My book is only the second book on Amazon about pregnancy and fibromyalgia. It’s a real information void.
Research shows that my experience will not dictate how you experience pregnancy. I found it far more difficult than some. Some women actually experience a holiday from their symptoms. So, while it is useful to hear other people’s experiences, your situation will be unique.
Here are some tips for being pregnant with chronic illness:
1. Arm yourself with knowledge. Learn all that you can about pregnancy, nursing and parenting with your illness. Just knowing that your symptoms could be exacerbated can prepare you.
2. Get your body into the best place possible before conceiving. I wasn’t in a good place with my health prior to my first pregnancy, so I went in with bad pain management techniques and struggled because of it. With my second pregnancy, I was coping as best as I could given I was working part-time, had a 2-year-old and a chronic illness – this made a big difference in how the pregnancy went.
3. Prioritize rest and sleep. Chronic illness or not, growing a baby is tiring work. Take the rest now. I am not a good sleeper, so I use meditation as a way of catching up on much needed deep rest. This might be useful for you.
4. Nourish your body with good food and appropriate supplements. My iron levels are typically on the low side. During my pregnancy they took a hit and caused severe lethargy and fatigue, so keep an eye on iron consumption. Also remember your baby is taking key nutrients so you need to replenish them. Good food always helps energy levels.
5. Make a plan for the final trimester, delivery and the first six weeks that involves a good support system. If there’s one thing that’s nearly universal, it’s a flare-up post-birth. Sleep deprivation, increased pain levels and recovering from labor are all difficult to manage, so ensure you have a support system in place. For me, it is my husband. He stayed home for six weeks after our second son was born. Try to get some 24/7 company and help for those early weeks.
6. Get a pain management plan in place. Discuss with your doctors what medicines you cannot come off, what you can come off of and get your natural pain management mechanisms in place. You do not have to be miserable. There’s research that suggests that under treated pain can negatively affect the pregnancy.
The great thing about pregnancy is that it has an end date. There may be more pain and fatigue for a time, but it is finite and there is an amazing pay off (that baby!).