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The Fibromyalgic Pregnancy and Beyond - The Postnatal Map

The Postnatal Map

Welcome to the final chapter in this booklet: the must have map to guide you through the postnatal period with your sense of humour intact!

 Whether this is your first baby or your sixth, the thrill of seeing your own infant for the first time is still there - tiny feet, tiny hands, a wonderful fresh chance to bring about positive change in this world. All those months of expectation have come to life in one tiny child, your own miracle.

 Plan ahead

Most people with FM are skilled in the art of planning and this skill will come in handy when you have a new baby, especially during the first two or three months after you bring your baby home. You know that you’re going to be tired, so if possible, plan to have some help during those first two months. But remember to make one point clear before friends or relatives arrive: you are taking care of the baby; they are taking care of the other essential chores that need doing - not the other way around! If no one is close by to help, ask your midwife about home visiting programs and local postnatal support agencies, such as doulas and maternity nurses. If they can’t help then email me and I will try to get the number of the agency that offers a service in your area.

Plan to have your baby’s clothes, nappies and bedding ready. Think of friends who have had babies in the last five years. Chances are they still have plenty of wearable and useable items that their children have outgrown. Babies have no concept of ‘fashion trends’ so why waste money on new clothes for them when there are plenty of good quality second hand items available? Use the money you save to buy yourself some home help instead!

 Getting to know your baby

During your pregnancy you may have formed expectations about the sex and appearance of your baby. It may be difficult to adjust these expectations with reality. It may take a while for you and your family to get to know your new baby. Every baby is unique and every parent’s relationship with their baby is also unique. The first few days and weeks of your baby’s life can be a marvellous adventure as your baby grows. However, when you are in pain and already sleep deprived, it can be a struggle to form an immediate deep bond with a demanding infant when you are also trying to cope with the demands of living with FM.  I know of people (mothers and fathers) who took up to two years to feel that they had ‘bonded’ with their child. If you are having difficulty developing a loving relationship with your baby, let your midwife, GP or health visitor know as they can offer support in these situations.

 Your own changes don’t stop with the birth

Now that your months of great expectations have taken the form of a baby, you can expect more physical and mental changes in yourself during the weeks following the birth. You’ll be sore from the delivery, probably weak from over exertion of your muscles and quite tired. Don’t let these feelings frighten you, they are not a FM flare up and will resolve over the next few weeks.

 Exercise and combating exhaustion

As discussed above, take all help that is offered.  Your most important job is to care for your baby and yourself.  The vacuum cleaner won’t mind if someone else uses it! Try to avoid overexerting yourself in the first few weeks. If necessary temporarily move as much as possible onto the ground floor of your house so that everything you need for your baby is close to hand and let someone else get the shopping and do other chores for you. Eventually you will feel your strength returning, especially if you challenge yourself to do a bit more each day to build your strength. Muscles that do not get used do become weaker, but do allow yourself a few weeks to take it easy first. I think it is important to warn you that your stomach isn’t instantly going to be flat. Don’t expect to leave the hospital and be back to your pre-pregnant size. It took nine months to get to that size so allow it the same amount of time to return to normal, but remember that normal will be slightly different than pre-pregnancy!

Pain relief and medications

Make sure your GP reviews your pain medication so that you are taking the best one for this period of your life. Don’t forget the healing power of gentle massage and the soothing properties of warm water. Take your baby into the bath with you, there is nothing stopping you from combining your baby’s mealtime with a chance for you to have a lovely long soak in warm (not hot) water. Make sure there is someone else there to make sure you don’t fall asleep and to take the baby from you when you are ready to get out.

Breastfeeding

This may seem like hard work at first but give it a couple of weeks and you will begin to realize the advantages of this method.  When you are breastfeeding you can do nothing but rest yourself. There is no messing about with preparing feeds in bottles, saving you time and effort, and with the release of breast milk comes some ‘feel good’ hormones to sooth your nerves which have been jangled by your baby’s cries.  To help you all bond as a family, try feeding your baby in bed, cradled between the two of you.  Your partner can watch to make sure you don’t fall asleep and help you by putting the baby in the cradle after you have finished feeding and by doing the nappy change if necessary. Contrary to popular rumour, partners do like to help with the new baby!

 Your hormone levels

These will begin to return to normal and, in the process, your moods may swing much the same as in the beginning of pregnancy. You may experience some mild depression commonly referred to as ‘baby blues’. These feelings shouldn’t last very long. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that is different from ‘baby blues’. If you are currently on anti-depressants as part of your FM therapy, they may not be the right ones for you to take at this time.  Speak to your GP if you begin to feel ‘flat’, as it may be that a simple readjustment of your medication will resolve this for you.

 Resuming lovemaking

Your normal periods may not start again for several months if you are breastfeeding, but you can get pregnant again as early as 21 days after birth so make sure you use contraception.  I know you are thinking that there is no way you could possibly want to make love so soon after giving birth, and with a demanding baby to care for, but hormones are funny things. 

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