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Patient Booklet

 

 

Pregnancy and Newborns

Pregnancy and coping with a newborn baby can seem a daunting task when you live with the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. You may find yourself asking: how will pregnancy affect my symptoms? And, how will I manage to cope with the demands of a newborn baby? There are currently very few research studies published on this topic, so the following information has mainly been gathered from women who have experienced pregnancy while having fibromyalgia and is designed to offer encouragement, advice and coping skills for this exciting time in your life.

All the women we have spoken to agree that although the experience of childbirth may bring additional discomfort it is so worthwhile and positively encourage other women with fibromyalgia to go for it. They emphasise that the key is forward planning, knowing your limitations and being prepared to ask for help.

Conceiving

Before conceiving it is important to discuss the safety of your current medications with your GP. The majority of drugs prescribed for fibromyalgia are not safe during pregnancy and you will need to discontinue them gradually to allow them to clear your system before you try to conceive. Be sure to also check any over the counter medications you are taking, as some herbs can contribute to a miscarriage.

There is no evidence that fibromyalgia affects conception. It is natural to take up to a year to conceive, but if you are having problems consult your GP who will be able to advise you.

Pregnancy - The early stages

The first three months can be difficult, especially as you have come off your pain and sleep medications. Your hormones are changing dramatically and you may experience morning sickness, fatigue, mood swings and increased sensitivity to smell.

Try heat and cold packs, warm baths, gentle massage and stretching to ease pain and stiffness. Paracetamol is generally considered safe during pregnancy, so ask your GP if you need additional pain relief. On the plus side, your happiness and anticipation of your new baby can lead to the release of endorphins, your body's natural painkillers.

The middle months

In general, women with fibromyalgia report feeling better than ever during this time, with reduced pain and increased energy. The powerful hormone effects taking place in your body can mask your fibromyalgia symptoms making these months of pregnancy more comfortable. The hormone relaxin, for example, allows your pelvic girdle to expand by modifying the connective tissue and the fibres in your muscles and ligaments. This means that your ligaments relax offering welcomed pain relief.

This stage of pregnancy is an ideal time to start planning for your baby's arrival. It is a good idea to ask your GP for a referral to an occupational therapist who will be able to advise you on suitable equipment to purchase, methods of lifting your baby and comfortable positions for breast-feeding. This is also the time to decide what help you will need and to ask friends and family members to be prepared to take on certain roles. Here is a list of practical tips from mothers with fibromyalgia:

  • Treat the coming of your baby as a new project and prepare for it accordingly.
  • Choose a cot with a height adjustable base to avoid bending over when lifting your baby in and out of the cot.
  • Choose a buggy that is lightweight, easy to fold with one hand and has a handle that adjusts to the proper height for you.
  • Buy a grab stick for picking things up off the floor without bending.
  • Use a bath unit that allows you to bathe your baby at standing height to avoid bending. These units often come with a changing mat facility.
  • Buy baby clothes with zips rather than poppers or consider substituting poppers with Velcro.
  • Baby proof your house while you have more time and energy.

The final months

Increasing physical discomfort in the late stages of pregnancy is typical for all women. As your shape continues to change and the frontal weight increases you may experience lower back pain, limited mobility, and find it hard to find a comfortable position to sleep in. The weight pushing upwards can lead to heartburn and you will need to rest more due to increasing fatigue. This is the time to take it easy, employ your relaxation techniques and take one day at a time.

Giving Birth

Labour is difficult for all women and each labour experience is different and individual, therefore it is difficult to judge to what extent fibromyalgia contributes to the pain of giving birth. Women with fibromyalgia have reported experiencing one easy birth and one difficult one and say that additional pregnancies do not seem to aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms further. Listen to your own body and do what you think is right for you. Decide in advance how you wish to give birth and whether you want to have an epidural, use a TENS machine or have other forms of pain relief.

The powerful hormone effects together with the delight of your new baby can mask any pain and exhaustion for the first 24 hours. However, expect to feel exhausted, your body has just undergone a huge ordeal and your hormones are beginning to crash. Your fibromyalgia symptoms may return with a vengeance, which can be quite a shock if you have enjoyed relief during your pregnancy. This period can be tough and you will need help and understanding from your partner and family.

Practical Tips for Caring for Your Newborn

  • Find a method of breast-feeding that is comfortable for you. Use pillows to position the baby so you do not have to take the weight or consider breast-feeding lying down.
  • Consider bottle-feeding if the constant sleep disturbance of night­time feeds is causing you unbearable pain. Bottle-feeding means that Dad can take a turn and you can restart your medications.
  • Sleep when your baby sleeps. Get as much rest as possible.
  • Deal with any symptoms of postnatal depression promptly.
  • Ask for help when you need it.

Further help:

Disabled Parents Network (DPN) - provides information, advice and peer-support to anyone with a disability or long-term illness who is, or wants to be a parent. There is also a discussion forum with a section specifically for parents with fibromyalgia.

www.disabledparentsnetwork.org.uk
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Helpline: 0300 3300 639
10am – 4pm Mon – Fri and
7pm – 9 pm Weds

The Baby Challenge:

A Handbook on Pregnancy for Women with Physical Disability, by MJ Campion
If you are worried and would like to email a professional midwife with experience of fibromyalgia you could contact Denyse at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Children and Young People

Young people have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and we have a specific booklet designed for them with information for parents/carers and teaching staff. Please request this from the office, details of which are on the back cover. You can also download Children and Young Persons Booklet

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