Facts About Fibromyalgia and Pregnancy

Fibromyalgia pregnancy

If you are one of the millions of women diagnosed with fibromyalgia, there is a good chance you will become pregnant or are thinking about pregnancy. That’s because up to 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia are women and most are diagnosed during childbearing years. If you have fibromyalgia, you already know that it is a frustrating and mysterious condition to live with.

The Frustration of Fibromyalgia

Symptoms of diffuse pain, stiffness, fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, and brain fog are hard to live with, but so is the misunderstanding that comes with the symptoms. Up until 1987, fibromyalgia was not even recognized as a real disease. The diagnosis was considered a “waste basket diagnosis.” In other word, if you had symptoms of fibromyalgia, doctors assumed you were a basket case.

Today we know that fibromyalgia is a real neurosensory disorder. That means that symptoms are caused by an abnormal way pain signals are processed in your brain. But there is still a lot more don’t know than know when it comes to fibromyalgia. The average person still sees 15 different doctors over 5 years before getting a diagnosis. At some point, you were probably told there was nothing wrong with you, so how much is known about fibromyalgia and pregnancy?

A Few Studies

We do know that women with fibromyalgia get pregnant. Most have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. Since fibromyalgia has only recently come out of the wastebasket, it is not surprising that there have been few studies looking at fibromyalgia and pregnancy. Here is what those few studies have found:

  • Your symptoms may get worse during pregnancy, especially symptoms of pain and fatigue.
  • You may have a slightly higher risk of a miscarriage.
  • Your baby may be born a bit underweight.
  • Your risk for C-section and premature delivery is not increased.
  • You may have more trouble breast-feeding.

Remember that these findings are based on just a few small studies. There is no evidence that your baby will have any serious problems or that your pregnancy will be high risk. There is no recommendation to avoid becoming pregnant.

How to Manage Fibromyalgia in Pregnancy

There are only three medications approved to treat fibromyalgia. Two are antidepressants and one is an anti-seizure medication used to treat nerve pain. All there are class C for pregnancy, which means they may be risky. If you are taking one of these drugs, you should talk to your doctor about getting off before you get pregnant. If you get pregnant unexpectedly, you should let your doctor know. You will probably be advised to stop the drug.

The good news is that medication is just one treatment for fibromyalgia. Non-medication treatments also help. These treatments are what you will rely on during pregnancy. They include:

  • Exercise, which may be the best treatment for fibromyalgia any time.
  • Exercising in water, such as swimming or water aerobics may be helpful.
  • Exercise that includes focused breathing and meditation, like yoga and tai chi are recommended.
  • Meditation, focused breathing, and guided imagery programs can be used reduce stress and may help reduce other symptoms.
  • Massage is a good option for pain, stiffness, and stress. Try to find a therapist who is familiar with massage in pregnancy and fibromyalgia
  • Beef up your support system. Get your partner, friends, and relatives on board. This will help you get more rest and sleep.
  • Maintain good nutrition and healthy weight.

If you want to breastfeed your baby, keep in mind that it may add to your fatigue and stress. Make sure you get good support from a lactation specialist. Do not be devastated if you need to wean earlier than you wanted.

The bottom line is that there is no reason not to get pregnant with fibromyalgia. You may need to work a bit harder to manage symptoms of pain, stiffness, and fatigue. The rewards will be well worth the effort. The best advice is to talk to your doctor before getting pregnant so you have a plan in place.

Christopher Iliades
Dr. Chris Iliades is a medical doctor with 20 years of experience in clinical medicine and clinical research. Chris has been a full time medical writer and journalist since 2004. His byline appears in over 1,000 articles online including EverydayHealth, The Clinical Advisor, and Healthgrades. He has also written for print media including Cruising World Magazine, MD News, and The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Magazine. Chris lives with his wife and close to his three children and four grandchildren in the Boston area.

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