Navigating Pain Relief During Pregnancy With Fibromyalgia
Editor’s note: The following is based on an individual’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before going on or off medication.
Pain relief is a big issue for those who live with chronic pain. It becomes an even bigger issue during pregnancy. For those of us whose symptoms worsen during pregnancy, it’s a minefield.
In my article about navigating pregnancy with fibromyalgia, my sixth and final tip was to get a pain management plan in place – preferably prior to becoming pregnant. This is also module three of my course on pregnancy and fibromyalgia/chronic pain.
There are some medicines that are categorically unsafe for pregnancy. There are a lot of medicines they just don’t know enough about, but performing experiments on pregnant women, particularly involving something that may harm a baby, would be unethical. So literature relies on data provided by pregnant women. The website Mother to Baby provides fact sheets, access to professionals about medicine in pregnancy and more.
The first thing to do when considering pregnancy with a chronic pain-based illness would be to discuss plans for pregnancy with your doctor. With my first pregnancy, we didn’t talk to the doctor before conceiving, and then when we were discussing the only medicine I was on (amitriptyline) I nearly had a panic attack at the thought of going off it. My doctor called a specialist and they agreed that the benefits outweighed the potential risks – for me and my unique situation.
Sleep is a big battle for me. I enact a long list of sleep hygiene tactics every day, take a low dose of amitriptyline at 8 p.m., take a low dose of naltrexone (I only started this after I had my second baby, prior to this I would take pain medicine at this time) at 9 p.m., get into bed with my heat pack, do a body scan meditation and, if I’m lucky, fall asleep for a few hours at a time. A good night sees me fall asleep relatively quickly and only lose an hour to awake or restless times. It would appear that the second the pregnancy hormones enter my body, sleep runs away screaming. Pain also becomes a much bigger issue when I have to lie on my side (as you must once baby gets big enough to put pressure on an important vein when lying on your back).
As I said in my previous article (and will repeat forever), you do not have to be miserable. There’s also research that suggests under-treated pain can negatively affect the pregnancy. So if your doctor refuses to help you with pain relief, get a second opinion. Do some research for yourself and present it to them. I provide what I did during pregnancy to be as well as possible in my book “Fibro Mama: Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia” and I share a lot of information on my blog about general pain relief for fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome.
Here are a few natural pain relief mechanisms I enacted during my pregnancies:
1. Heat pack.
2. Warm shower or bath.
3. Essential oils such as lavender and peppermint (for external use only and with a carrier oil, after the first trimester).
4. Magnesium oil – I never got a calf cramp in my second pregnancy using this.
5. Gentle walks and stretching.
6. Meditation – especially ones specifically for pain relief on
pregnancy, there’s heaps on YouTube to search up.
7. Massage – either for yourself, or from a partner, friend or
8. Rest and sleep as much as you can.
9. Belly support belt – I had symphysis pubis disorder (my pelvis basically separated too far) and this helps to stabilize the pelvis.
I always recommend remembering that pregnancy is finite, there is an end date and a beautiful baby as the pay-off. I also was a bit smug in my second pregnancy because I knew I am one of those very rare women who actually sleep better with a newborn baby than pregnant, the pain levels are just so high that sleep is almost non-existent in the final trimester. Once I delivered my second baby, my bed that had previously felt as hard as a rock seemed luxuriously soft. So in those one, two or three hours that the baby was asleep – I slept like the dead, which is a very rare occurrence for me.
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I really hope that this article helps you on your way to relieving some of the pain involved in pregnancy with a chronic illness.
MORE ABOUT FIBROMYALGIA:
Fibromyalgia, a chronic illness with three main symptoms — widespread pain, chronic fatigue and cognitive trouble. Fibromyalgia is a complicated illness that’s not well understood. In the past, it was mischaracterized as a mental health disorder. Even today, some doctors wave off fibro symptoms as being “all in your head.” This isn’t the case. Read The Mighty’s comprehensive guide to fibromyalgia here. Click here to join our fibro community and connect with people who get it.