Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain and fatigue, as well as sleep, mood, and memory issues. The strain of weight gain and hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy can make symptoms worse.
Nevertheless, there is little research into how pregnancy and fibromyalgia affect each other.
Pain, fatigue, and stress can be particularly bothersome for women with fibromyalgia during the first and last trimesters of pregnancy. Disruption can also occur if a woman has to adjust her usual treatment for fibromyalgia during the pregnancy.
However, research suggests that, despite these challenges, a child born to a woman with fibromyalgia is likely to be no less healthy than one born to a woman without this condition.
Some symptoms can occur with both pregnancy and fibromyalgia.
- pain discomfort
- brain fog
- mood changes
When a woman with fibromyalgia becomes pregnant, she may find that the physical and emotional stress can intensify the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
During delivery, there may be an additional need for pain relief medication.
Researchers reporting in 2013 found that symptoms of fibromyalgia tended to be prominent around the time of delivery.
However, they did not find that the intensity of pain during delivery was greater than it was for other women.
The treatment and management of fibromyalgia often involve both medical and lifestyle therapies.
Drug treatments for fibromyalgia include:
- over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief, such as acetaminophen
- prescription pain relievers
- antiseizure medications
Many drugs for fibromyalgia may not be suitable during pregnancy.
Any woman with fibromyalgia who is planning a pregnancy should talk to the doctor about how it will affect the treatment options.
Any woman with fibromyalgia who finds out she is pregnant should check with her doctor:
- before taking any medications, including those for fibromyalgia
- before stopping any medications, including those for fibromyalgia
It is best for a woman to consult a doctor as soon as she knows she is pregnant to discuss the best way to treat fibromyalgia during pregnancy. Some drugs, such as acetaminophen, may be safe to use at this time.
Some lifestyle treatments have also proven helpful for people with fibromyalgia, such as:
- behavioral therapy
- getting enough sleep
- learning about the condition
These practices can also help a person stay healthy during pregnancy.
The impact of fibromyalgia may change throughout the pregnancy, according to Fibromyalgia Action UK.
Trimester 1: This can be challenging. Not only is the body trying to cope with fluctuating hormones, but the individual may have just stopped taking their fibromyalgia medication. Nausea and fatigue can add to the challenges during these three months or so.
Trimester 2: Many women have a sense of wellbeing during the middle months, and this may be true, too, for those with fibromyalgia. The effect of the body’s natural hormones may mean a woman has more energy and feels less pain.
Trimester 3: Discomfort, fatigue, heartburn, and difficulty sleeping can all be problems in the weeks before delivery. For a woman with fibromyalgia, these may be particularly challenging.
A study published in 2017 found that women with fibromyalgia were more likely to experience the following during the third trimester, compared with those who did not have fibromyalgia:
- muscle weakness and muscle pain
- chest pain
- abdominal pain
- frequent urination
These are common problems during pregnancy, but a woman with fibromyalgia appears to have a higher chance of experiencing them.
The researchers called for doctors to take therapeutic measures to ensure a healthy pregnancy for these women.
Tips for caring for a pregnant woman with fibromyalgia
During pregnancy, a woman with fibromyalgia may need some extra care, as pain and fatigue may become overwhelming or debilitating.
The person who is taking care of her should:
- inform themselves about fibromyalgia
- listen to the person’s concerns
- 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 arrange for extra help after childbirth. The caregiver may find they will be busy taking care of the new mom and the newborn.
Doctors do know not much about how fibromyalgia affects pregnancy.
However, a study published in 2011 found some evidence of a possible link between fibromyalgia and a risk of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). In this condition, the baby’s growth is restricted in the womb, causing the baby to be smaller in size.
There may also be a higher risk of:
However, most pregnant women with fibromyalgia give birth to healthy, full-term babies. Overall, they are less likely to experience preterm labor.
A woman with fibromyalgia who is planning to become pregnant needs to take extra factors into account.
When planning a pregnancy, it can be helpful for a woman with fibromyalgia to consider:
- finding a healthcare team who understand fibromyalgia as well as pregnancy
- how to make time to rest
- what drug-free ways are there for managing pain
- learning as much as possible about both pregnancy and fibromyalgia management
- planning a system of help throughout pregnancy and in the first weeks after delivery
Having a plan can help a person cope when unexpected challenges arise.
Lifestyle measures that can help women with fibromyalgia during pregnancy include:
- following any treatment plan the doctor recommends
- eating a healthful diet
- resting as needed, which may be more than usual
- exercising as the physician recommends
Having fibromyalgia does not meant that a woman cannot become pregnant, but there may be additional considerations.
A woman who is pregnant or plans to become pregnant should ask her doctor if they any special support is available.
She should also try to learn as much as possible about what it means to experience pregnancy with fibromyalgia, as this will enable her to participate more actively in working out the best approach as each step of the way.