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Fibromyalgia and pregnancy

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that can cause fatigue and pain throughout the body. It is also known as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS).

It affects more women than men and typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50. Consequently, how pregnancy can affect fibromyalgia is relevant to women with the condition.

Does fibromyalgia affect fertility?

There's no evidence fibromyalgia affects fertility. Most of the drugs prescribed for the condition are not recommended to to be taken during pregnancy. So advice from your doctor on how to stop taking them and suitable alternatives should be sought before trying to become pregnant.

Talk to your GP before you stop any medications.

What treatments are recommended for fibromyalgia during pregnancy?

The safest treatments if you're pregnant with fibromyalgia include massage, meditation, exercise, yoga, tai chi and rest.

If your symptoms include fatigue and you ache all over, then rest for 20 to 30 minutes at least two or three times a day.

To ease trigger point pain, try applying moist heat twice a day. A warm shower or bath is a good way to do this.

Do not use a whirlpool bath when pregnant but consider exercising in a warm swimming pool or hydrotherapy pool. The heat can help ease fibromyalgia pain. However, the water temperature should not be hot. In a pool, water temperatures from 28C (83F) to 31C (88F) are usually comfortable for exercise. Discuss this with your midwife or doctor first.

On the subject of temperature - only use warm - not piping hot - water in your bath during pregnancy because very hot water can harm foetal development.

You can also use gentle stretching exercises and exercises recommended by your doctor or midwife.

Exercise is linked with positive mood. It increases the levels in your body of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which scientists have found is related to fibromyalgia.

Riding a stationary exercise bike may also be helpful.

How does fibromyalgia affect pregnancy?

Unfortunately there aren't many studies on fibromyalgia in pregnant women.

However, a US study at Temple University found that women with fibromyalgia had more symptoms of pain during pregnancy than women who did not have the condition. Also, fibromyalgia symptoms seemed to be made worse pregnancy.

  • First trimester - The first 3 months can be difficult for pregnant women with fibromyalgia, especially as they have come off their medication. If you need additional pain relief speak to your GP. In general, paracetamol is considered safe during pregnancy but it's best to avoid all medications until you have the approval of your midwife or doctor.
  • Second trimester - This is the time to 'glow'. Most women with fibromyalgia report reduced pain and increased energy at this time. In the middle 3 months high levels of hormones are released which encourage the expansion of the fibres of muscles and ligaments. The hormone, relaxin, allows the pelvic girdle to expand and this relaxation of the ligaments often results in welcome pain relief from fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Third trimester - All women, not just those with fibromyalgia, will experience increased physical discomfort including possible lower back pain, difficulty sleeping and increasing fatigue, at this time.

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