Navigating Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Guide for Expectant Mothers

Table of contents

Navigating Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Guide for Expectant Mothers

Navigating being pregnant with fibromyalgia can be difficult, and often overwhelming.

In this article we will uncover how fibromyalgia can affect your pregnancy journey and also how being pregnant can affect your fibromyalgia symptoms. We will also discuss symptoms postpartum and provide strategies that are safe to use during all of the different trimesters so you can manage your pain as you progress on your healthier pregnancy journey.

How does fibromyalgia affect pregnancy?

Millions of people around the world have fibromyalgia, a condition that causes a lot of pain, tiredness, and other symptoms. For those who have fibromyalgia, being pregnant can make things a bit more tricky. The changes in the body during pregnancy, including hormone swings and changing body size, can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse. Sometimes, these symptoms might be mistaken for the usual discomforts of pregnancy.

It's important to understand how fibromyalgia and pregnancy affect each other, so that you can take the best care of yourself during this time.

During pregnancy, your pain might intensify and you might find daily tasks more challenging. Feelings of worry or sadness may also increase, and concerns about childbirth are common.

A study in Israel involving 112 pregnant women with fibromyalgia revealed several risks. These women1:

  • had a higher chance of having smaller babies
  • were more likely to have experienced recurrent miscarriages, which occurred in about 10 percent of the cases
  • faced issues like abnormal blood sugar levels
  • had excessive amniotic fluid surrounding the baby.

Pain & discomfort

Among pregnant women, fibromyalgia symptoms often manifest as widespread pain that can affect numerous body regions. Specifically, the lower back is a frequent site of this discomfort – a typical issue during pregnancy. A study found that low back pain (LBP) occurred in 25 to 90% of women with fibromyalgia who were expecting2.

Due to similarities between regular pregnancy-related discomforts, such as pelvic girdle pain, and fibromyalgia, it may be difficult to differentiate between standard pregnancy symptoms and those related to fibromyalgia among pregnant women experiencing these conditions.

Fatigue & sleep disruption

Embarking on motherhood is no small feat. Pregnancy usually brings about a lack of sleep, and for someone with fibromyalgia, this can make fatigue more intense. Taking care of a newborn, with all its demands such as feeding, can be quite strenuous when you're already feeling worn out from fibromyalgia.

How does pregnancy affect fibromyalgia symptoms?

During pregnancy, the symptoms of fibromyalgia might intensify, particularly as the due date approaches. One study found that, with the exception of one patient, all women described worsening fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy with the last trimester experienced as the worst period3.

This is often because the baby is growing, your body is changing, and as the baby gets bigger there's more pressure on your stomach and back. These are areas where fibromyalgia can already make you hurt more. This amplification in pain is frequently attributed to factors such as weighing more, fetal development exerting pressure on the abdomen, and increased pressure on the lower back – a region that is considered a tender point.

Does pregnancy stress trigger fibromyalgia?

At least 80% of people who live with fibromyalgia report that stress making their symptoms worse. Pregnancy can be a time of increased stress, so if you have fibromyalgia, you might notice that your symptoms get a bit more intense.

Being pregnant won't make fibromyalgia go away. So, if you're expecting, you'll need to find ways to manage stress well and make sure you have people around to support you. Having a good support network is key to handling the extra challenges that come with fibromyalgia during this special time in your life.

Do fibromyalgia symptoms reduce after giving birth?

Recovery after giving birth can be quite a challenge for those with fibromyalgia. The body takes time to heal, and symptoms like pain might take a while to settle back to what they were before pregnancy. It's important to rest well and keep using the strategies that helped during pregnancy to make this time easier to manage.

Managing fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy

There are several non-pharmacological methods available for alleviating fibromyalgia symptoms in pregnant women, especially during the third trimester. These alternatives include:

  • massage therapy
  • physical activity
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • adequate rest.

Retraining your pain

Understanding pain in fibromyalgia isn't just about the physical hurt. It's also about how your mind and feelings are connected to the pain. If you know what makes your pain worse, such as stress or that critical voice in your head, you can work on those things. You might alter what you eat, find ways to get better sleep, become more active, or learn new ways to think about pain.

With practice, you can teach your brain to deal with pain differently, which can make it less impactful on your life.

Managing stress

Stress is a part of life – and can be especially so with little ones around! But when you have fibromyalgia, it's even more crucial to manage it well. Good stress management can actually make your body less sensitive to pain.

There are many ways to help lower stress. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy can change the way you think and help you stay in the moment. This can make you feel more relaxed, which can help to reduce your symptoms and the distress that they can cause.

It's also helpful to talk about what you're going through with friends, a therapist, or a support group – whether that's a fibro support group or a support group for new parents. Sharing your feelings can give you comfort and make you feel like you're not alone.

The goal is to find effective ways to cope with stress and fibro symptoms, so you can enjoy a healthier pregnancy and be better prepared for the joys and demands of motherhood.

Sleep quality

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of health, much like the foundation is to a house. And yes, we know that it can feel impossible, doubly so with the extra strain of pregnancy and triply so when you have a baby! Getting sound sleep can be a real challenge when dealing with fibromyalgia, because the condition often disrupts sleep patterns, exacerbating symptoms of pain and fatigue. However, for individuals with fibromyalgia, restful sleep is even more crucial – it's the bedrock that supports daily wellbeing.

To enhance sleep, consider these straightforward tips:

  • Aim for eight hours of sleep and maintain a consistent bedtime routine. If you know that your sleep is being disrupted, plan to have an extra hour or two in bed so that you can get more hours of sleep in total.
  • Limit naps to ensure they don't interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Daytime activity can promote fatigue, preparing your body for rest later.
  • Disconnect from electronics before bed; they can keep your mind active.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment: dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Avoid late-day caffeine and large meals close to bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep.
  • Engage in calming activities before bed to transition into a restful state.

When sleep is elusive, try not to worry about it! Becoming frustrated or worried because you are tossing and turning at night will only serve to arouse your nervous system, which makes it harder to fall asleep. Whether it's your fibro or the pregnancy (or a snoring pet or partner in bed!) that's keeping you awake, practice mindfulness or get up and read a relaxing book for a short time before going back to bed and trying again.

Pregnancy-safe exercises

Exercise is a wise choice for managing fibromyalgia during your pregnancy. Engaging in low impact activities, such as walking, stretching, and swimming and other water-based exercises can enhance your wellbeing. These activities are gentle yet effective in reducing pain and improving your mood. You might even find that they give you more energy!

Incorporating simple yoga or Pilates may be also useful, because these can also contribute to your emotional and physical health.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can play a helpful role in managing fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy. Massage and acupuncture5 are two techniques that have been found to help ease the pain that comes with fibromyalgia. Acupuncture can influence certain chemicals in your body like serotonin, which might change due to the hormonal shifts during pregnancy.

Always talk to your healthcare provider before you engage in a new treatment to make sure it is the right choice for you and safe for your pregnancy.

Is there any pregnant-safe medication for treating fibromyalgia while pregnant?

Fibromyalgia medication use requires careful consideration. Current research and studies have found that drugs typically prescribed for fibromyalgia, such as painkillers and antidepressants, should be avoided if possible during pregnancy because their safety during this time isn't guaranteed6.

If you are breastfeeding, it's important to watch the baby for any signs of side effects. These could include being overly sleepy or having an upset stomach. The risks of using fibromyalgia medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding are not fully understood, so it's very important to talk with doctors about these risks.

Looking into other ways to manage pain without medication is a good idea for pregnant women.

Weighing benefits & risks

When deciding whether or not to use medicines while you're pregnant it's very important to learn about and consider the potential benefits and the potential risks. This is a delicate balance during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it’s important to make these decisions with a healthcare provider's guidance.

help reduce your pain and other symptoms, and help you to feel better if you have fibromyalgia. But, it's not always safe for the baby growing inside you. Every medicine is different, so you and your doctor need to talk about what's best for you and your baby. This is particularly important given that there are very few medications, if any, are endorsed for pregnant women with fibromyalgia.

Breastfeeding & medication

Feeding is a special time for you and your baby, and this is equally true regardless of whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed.

Some chemical compounds, such as certain medicines, can pass to your baby through breast milk. And medications that are used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms could be harmful to your baby, so you may need to choose between breastfeeding or bottle feeding4. It's best to talk to doctors who know about fibromyalgia and breastfeeding. They can help you choose the safest way to treat your symptoms and keep your baby healthy.

Building a support network

Building a support network is key for managing fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy. This should include medical professionals, family, and friends to help reduce stress and manage symptoms. Support groups offer a space for sharing experiences and getting advice from those in similar situations.

Emotional support

When you're pregnant and also dealing with fibromyalgia, having people close to you for emotional support becomes even more important. It helps a lot to have family and friends around who understand what you're going through. They can help you stay positive, which really matters because fibromyalgia can make things tougher during pregnancy.

Professional guidance

Women with fibromyalgia must maintain a healthy pregnancy through consistent oversight from both a specialist in fibromyalgia and an obstetrician. This professional support and monitoring will help manage symptoms of fibromyalgia during the gestational period, check for signs of depression, and provide emotional support.

More information

At MoreGoodDays®, we carefully create resources to help you on your journey with fibromyalgia. This condition can really change how you do everyday things. Our resources are made to be easy to use and helpful, giving you knowledge about fibromyalgia and ways to deal with the pain, tiredness and other symptoms it brings.

We're here to guide you to better health and more happiness, even when fibromyalgia makes things complicated.

Download our mobile app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for immediate access to some of our content and to see your support options.

  1. Tammy Zioni, Dan Buskila, Barak Aricha-Tamir, Arnon Wiznitzer & Eyal Sheiner (2011) Pregnancy outcome in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome, The Journal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 24:11, 1325-1328, DOI: 10.3109/14767058.2010.551152
  2. Genç H, Atasever M, Duyur Çakit B, Seval M, Koç A. The Effects of Fibromyalgia Syndrome on Physical Function and Psychological Status of Pregnant Females. Arch Rheumatol. 2017 Jan 5;32(2):129-140. doi: 10.5606/ArchRheumatol.2017.6028. PMID: 30375568; PMCID: PMC6190985. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6190985/
  3. Ostensen M, Rugelsjøen A, Wigers SH. The effect of reproductive events and alterations of sex hormone levels on the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Scand J Rheumatol. 1997;26(5):355-60. doi: 10.3109/03009749709065698. PMID: 9385346. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9385346/
  4. Study finds fibromyalgia prohibits sufferers from breast-feeding. (2004, September 4). ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/09/040921074750.htm
  5. Berger AA, Liu Y, Nguyen J, Spraggins R, Reed DS, Lee C, Hasoon J, Kaye AD. Efficacy of acupuncture in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Orthop Rev (Pavia). 2021 Jun 22;13(2):25085. doi: 10.52965/001c.25085. PMID: 34745475; PMCID: PMC8567806. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8567806/
  6. Gentile S, Fusco ML. Managing fibromyalgia syndrome in pregnancy no bridges between USA and EU. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2019 Dec;22(6):711-721. doi: 10.1007/s00737-018-0933-z. Epub 2019 Jan 3. PMID: 30607517. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30607517/

Navigating Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Guide for Expectant Mothers

Table of contents

Navigating Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia: A Comprehensive Guide for Expectant Mothers

Navigating being pregnant with fibromyalgia can be difficult, and often overwhelming.

In this article we will uncover how fibromyalgia can affect your pregnancy journey and also how being pregnant can affect your fibromyalgia symptoms. We will also discuss symptoms postpartum and provide strategies that are safe to use during all of the different trimesters so you can manage your pain as you progress on your healthier pregnancy journey.

How does fibromyalgia affect pregnancy?

Millions of people around the world have fibromyalgia, a condition that causes a lot of pain, tiredness, and other symptoms. For those who have fibromyalgia, being pregnant can make things a bit more tricky. The changes in the body during pregnancy, including hormone swings and changing body size, can make fibromyalgia symptoms worse. Sometimes, these symptoms might be mistaken for the usual discomforts of pregnancy.

It's important to understand how fibromyalgia and pregnancy affect each other, so that you can take the best care of yourself during this time.

During pregnancy, your pain might intensify and you might find daily tasks more challenging. Feelings of worry or sadness may also increase, and concerns about childbirth are common.

A study in Israel involving 112 pregnant women with fibromyalgia revealed several risks. These women1:

  • had a higher chance of having smaller babies
  • were more likely to have experienced recurrent miscarriages, which occurred in about 10 percent of the cases
  • faced issues like abnormal blood sugar levels
  • had excessive amniotic fluid surrounding the baby.

Pain & discomfort

Among pregnant women, fibromyalgia symptoms often manifest as widespread pain that can affect numerous body regions. Specifically, the lower back is a frequent site of this discomfort – a typical issue during pregnancy. A study found that low back pain (LBP) occurred in 25 to 90% of women with fibromyalgia who were expecting2.

Due to similarities between regular pregnancy-related discomforts, such as pelvic girdle pain, and fibromyalgia, it may be difficult to differentiate between standard pregnancy symptoms and those related to fibromyalgia among pregnant women experiencing these conditions.

Fatigue & sleep disruption

Embarking on motherhood is no small feat. Pregnancy usually brings about a lack of sleep, and for someone with fibromyalgia, this can make fatigue more intense. Taking care of a newborn, with all its demands such as feeding, can be quite strenuous when you're already feeling worn out from fibromyalgia.

How does pregnancy affect fibromyalgia symptoms?

During pregnancy, the symptoms of fibromyalgia might intensify, particularly as the due date approaches. One study found that, with the exception of one patient, all women described worsening fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy with the last trimester experienced as the worst period3.

This is often because the baby is growing, your body is changing, and as the baby gets bigger there's more pressure on your stomach and back. These are areas where fibromyalgia can already make you hurt more. This amplification in pain is frequently attributed to factors such as weighing more, fetal development exerting pressure on the abdomen, and increased pressure on the lower back – a region that is considered a tender point.

Does pregnancy stress trigger fibromyalgia?

At least 80% of people who live with fibromyalgia report that stress making their symptoms worse. Pregnancy can be a time of increased stress, so if you have fibromyalgia, you might notice that your symptoms get a bit more intense.

Being pregnant won't make fibromyalgia go away. So, if you're expecting, you'll need to find ways to manage stress well and make sure you have people around to support you. Having a good support network is key to handling the extra challenges that come with fibromyalgia during this special time in your life.

Do fibromyalgia symptoms reduce after giving birth?

Recovery after giving birth can be quite a challenge for those with fibromyalgia. The body takes time to heal, and symptoms like pain might take a while to settle back to what they were before pregnancy. It's important to rest well and keep using the strategies that helped during pregnancy to make this time easier to manage.

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Managing fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy

There are several non-pharmacological methods available for alleviating fibromyalgia symptoms in pregnant women, especially during the third trimester. These alternatives include:

  • massage therapy
  • physical activity
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • adequate rest.

Retraining your pain

Understanding pain in fibromyalgia isn't just about the physical hurt. It's also about how your mind and feelings are connected to the pain. If you know what makes your pain worse, such as stress or that critical voice in your head, you can work on those things. You might alter what you eat, find ways to get better sleep, become more active, or learn new ways to think about pain.

With practice, you can teach your brain to deal with pain differently, which can make it less impactful on your life.

Managing stress

Stress is a part of life – and can be especially so with little ones around! But when you have fibromyalgia, it's even more crucial to manage it well. Good stress management can actually make your body less sensitive to pain.

There are many ways to help lower stress. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy can change the way you think and help you stay in the moment. This can make you feel more relaxed, which can help to reduce your symptoms and the distress that they can cause.

It's also helpful to talk about what you're going through with friends, a therapist, or a support group – whether that's a fibro support group or a support group for new parents. Sharing your feelings can give you comfort and make you feel like you're not alone.

The goal is to find effective ways to cope with stress and fibro symptoms, so you can enjoy a healthier pregnancy and be better prepared for the joys and demands of motherhood.

Sleep quality

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of health, much like the foundation is to a house. And yes, we know that it can feel impossible, doubly so with the extra strain of pregnancy and triply so when you have a baby! Getting sound sleep can be a real challenge when dealing with fibromyalgia, because the condition often disrupts sleep patterns, exacerbating symptoms of pain and fatigue. However, for individuals with fibromyalgia, restful sleep is even more crucial – it's the bedrock that supports daily wellbeing.

To enhance sleep, consider these straightforward tips:

  • Aim for eight hours of sleep and maintain a consistent bedtime routine. If you know that your sleep is being disrupted, plan to have an extra hour or two in bed so that you can get more hours of sleep in total.
  • Limit naps to ensure they don't interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Daytime activity can promote fatigue, preparing your body for rest later.
  • Disconnect from electronics before bed; they can keep your mind active.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment: dark, quiet, and cool.
  • Avoid late-day caffeine and large meals close to bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep.
  • Engage in calming activities before bed to transition into a restful state.

When sleep is elusive, try not to worry about it! Becoming frustrated or worried because you are tossing and turning at night will only serve to arouse your nervous system, which makes it harder to fall asleep. Whether it's your fibro or the pregnancy (or a snoring pet or partner in bed!) that's keeping you awake, practice mindfulness or get up and read a relaxing book for a short time before going back to bed and trying again.

Pregnancy-safe exercises

Exercise is a wise choice for managing fibromyalgia during your pregnancy. Engaging in low impact activities, such as walking, stretching, and swimming and other water-based exercises can enhance your wellbeing. These activities are gentle yet effective in reducing pain and improving your mood. You might even find that they give you more energy!

Incorporating simple yoga or Pilates may be also useful, because these can also contribute to your emotional and physical health.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies can play a helpful role in managing fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy. Massage and acupuncture5 are two techniques that have been found to help ease the pain that comes with fibromyalgia. Acupuncture can influence certain chemicals in your body like serotonin, which might change due to the hormonal shifts during pregnancy.

Always talk to your healthcare provider before you engage in a new treatment to make sure it is the right choice for you and safe for your pregnancy.

Is there any pregnant-safe medication for treating fibromyalgia while pregnant?

Fibromyalgia medication use requires careful consideration. Current research and studies have found that drugs typically prescribed for fibromyalgia, such as painkillers and antidepressants, should be avoided if possible during pregnancy because their safety during this time isn't guaranteed6.

If you are breastfeeding, it's important to watch the baby for any signs of side effects. These could include being overly sleepy or having an upset stomach. The risks of using fibromyalgia medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding are not fully understood, so it's very important to talk with doctors about these risks.

Looking into other ways to manage pain without medication is a good idea for pregnant women.

Weighing benefits & risks

When deciding whether or not to use medicines while you're pregnant it's very important to learn about and consider the potential benefits and the potential risks. This is a delicate balance during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it’s important to make these decisions with a healthcare provider's guidance.

help reduce your pain and other symptoms, and help you to feel better if you have fibromyalgia. But, it's not always safe for the baby growing inside you. Every medicine is different, so you and your doctor need to talk about what's best for you and your baby. This is particularly important given that there are very few medications, if any, are endorsed for pregnant women with fibromyalgia.

Breastfeeding & medication

Feeding is a special time for you and your baby, and this is equally true regardless of whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed.

Some chemical compounds, such as certain medicines, can pass to your baby through breast milk. And medications that are used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms could be harmful to your baby, so you may need to choose between breastfeeding or bottle feeding4. It's best to talk to doctors who know about fibromyalgia and breastfeeding. They can help you choose the safest way to treat your symptoms and keep your baby healthy.

Building a support network

Building a support network is key for managing fibromyalgia symptoms during pregnancy. This should include medical professionals, family, and friends to help reduce stress and manage symptoms. Support groups offer a space for sharing experiences and getting advice from those in similar situations.

Emotional support

When you're pregnant and also dealing with fibromyalgia, having people close to you for emotional support becomes even more important. It helps a lot to have family and friends around who understand what you're going through. They can help you stay positive, which really matters because fibromyalgia can make things tougher during pregnancy.

Professional guidance

Women with fibromyalgia must maintain a healthy pregnancy through consistent oversight from both a specialist in fibromyalgia and an obstetrician. This professional support and monitoring will help manage symptoms of fibromyalgia during the gestational period, check for signs of depression, and provide emotional support.

More information

At MoreGoodDays®, we carefully create resources to help you on your journey with fibromyalgia. This condition can really change how you do everyday things. Our resources are made to be easy to use and helpful, giving you knowledge about fibromyalgia and ways to deal with the pain, tiredness and other symptoms it brings.

We're here to guide you to better health and more happiness, even when fibromyalgia makes things complicated.

Download our mobile app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for immediate access to some of our content and to see your support options.