On my Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries page I include my journals from my second pregnancy last year, which I edited and posted over this past year.
After a week of intensified Braxton Hicks contractions, escalating back and hip pain and other excellent end of pregnancy symptoms, I was glad to make it to week 36. At week 36 baby’s lungs are better prepared for the outside world and he’s mostly ready.
Week 37 is considered term. Nu came at 37 weeks and 4 days, for which I was profoundly grateful as I was exhausted and in so much pain by then.
Sleep deprivation is like putting Fibromyalgia on crack. It makes sleeping even harder, you lay awake in pain for hours at night and spend all day in pain. The fatigue is unrelenting. I’m trying to severely limit the Panadiene as the midwife said we don’t want it building up in my system before birth.
Late pregnancy symptoms are uncomfortable for anyone. The heaviness of the belly, the constant bathroom stops, the back ache, menstrual like cramps, Braxton Hicks contractions, alternating hunger and nausea, fatigue. At least these are for a finite time. Though I am a little jealous of those who know their end dates (inductions and cesareans)!
Unfortunately, we found that my iron levels had completely depleted and I had to quickly have an injection at week 37. It certainly explained why I had been so exhausted, lethargic, nauseas and in so much pain. Within days of the injection I felt so much better! It was amazing, I hadn’t realised how sick I had gotten.
I managed to spend the day out with my family and walk more than I had in weeks on the Saturday of that weekend. On the Sunday I managed to meet a friend for coffee and wander around the mall with Nu in tow (I had been too exhausted to consider wrangling him out of the house). It was really nice.
I had a show and a little mucus coming away over the weekend after 37 weeks ticked over and had stronger tightenings which made me a little excited. I couldn’t wait to meet my boy.
At week 38 we began getting ready for Christmas and put up our tree and took Nu to a Christmas Fair. It was really lovely as he’s beginning to be able to understand and get excited with us. My stamina had greatly decreased by then, Nu saved me a lot of the late pregnancy symptoms by arriving early. I hoped we wouldn’t get too far into December as I wanted baby to have his birthday separate from Christmas and my back needed him out!
I have shared this journey so that people can see what if is like for this mama with Fibromyalgia to do pregnancy, find it in my Pregnancy Diaries page here.
Week 34 was characterised by fatigue, pain, menstrual like cramps, many Braxton Hicks contractions and growing excitement. My body was definitely gearing up for the last weeks and delivery.
Pacing became necessary. 30 minutes of activity in exchange for a rest with the heat pack.
My neck, which had coped so well previously, started to get quite stiff and sore. After a day of doing too much on the computer (finishing two assignments for my bookkeeping course and scheduling two blog posts) I experienced pain levels of 7-8/10 with a severe headache causing nausea. I am quite proud of my coping mechanisms – once Nu was in bed I had a hot shower, used the TENS machine on my shoulders, and heatpack on my neck. After coming off my one Panadiene per night in preparation for baby’s coming (and wanting to avoid any potential breathing issues from the codiene, very low risk) I allowed myself to have one. This all enabled me to get to sleep. I did wake every half an hour at first, but then managed a three hour block in the middle of the night, before lapsing back to frequent waking. For me, for this pregnancy, this was quite good. I did have to take it quite easy for next few days.
Baby seemed to burrow himself lower in week 34. When I sat down it was like he was sitting in my lap. There were occasional stabbing pains down low and more painful Braxton Hicks contractions. One night I woke with one that required breathing to get through. Each afternoon and evening seemed to bring a flurry of them, whether walking or resting (though I was mostly walking at this time and herding the 2.5 year old through the evening routine).
With my Whooping Cough vaccine down, week 35 ticked over and the birthing centre tour taken, all that needed to happen before I was ready for baby was for two weeks to elapse. I wasn’t sure when to hire the baby carseat (I didn’t want it to sit in the car, unused for four or five weeks). But, apart from that, I had everything organised.
I found some relief with a lavendar massage oil on my low back and glutes (and my whole back whenever I could talk husband into a massage) before bed. On the nights my neck was making it hard to lie down I used a menthol massage cream. My heatpack, pelvic tilts, child’s pose, meditation, stretching, resting, good food and lots of water got me through the difficulties of late pregnancy.
I have shared this journey to show what it is like for a mama with Fibromyalgia to do pregnancy, see my Pregnant Diaries page here.
I couldn’t believe my baby was coming sometime in the next 7-10 weeks!
This pregnancy was such a different experience to the first one, for which I was so grateful. It was challenging and I was pretty sore and tired (and there’s more to come) but I tried to savour the good bits. To remember the feeling of my tiny baby moving within me, to know I was growing a human life. It’s amazing.
A lot of my to-do list had been ticked off for baby. I was not prepared to go out for long shopping trips anymore. Most of what’s left was to prepare what I could in advance to make life easier.
I had been daydreaming/visualising about how it would be better than last time, without a prolonged labour experience, without being left without my husband in the first days, without my son being sick and needing to be back in hospital after three weeks…The difference this could make. I also had a list of the things I could try while nursing and after that in order to support my health – including rhodiola rosea for energy and adrenal support.
Nursing was occupying my thoughts. With Nu I really struggled, he was sick and a lot of problems arose with that, it also hurt (my nipples were ruined and my actual breasts ached so badly – I cried when I had to go and express). I hated it. It did not help my experience of the first six weeks of motherhood.
This time I was hoping that a better start, the baby being well and a different baby would make a difference. I was hoping that baby will latch well, drink well and not be resolute about going to sleep after one minute! I was also hoping that the entirely different situation will give me some leeway in the pain and energy levels. I had my double expressing machine, nipple cover, cream and ice packs ready. I was going utilise the six weeks my husband is home to really make a luxury out of feeding – go and lie down comfortably with my heat pack and potentially a guided meditation to try to make it a rest at the same time.
My lower back/hips continued to feel rather sore, almost like they were being sawn off. I had found that not taking a walk (in addition to my 8000 incidental steps per day), doing pelvic tilts and yoga stretches on all fours made a difference. As did lying on my side but leaning slightly back on my maternity pillow when in bed. Heat pack, warm showers and arnica rub helped.
Meditation continued to be a life raft. 45 minute body scans with my heatpack about lunch time made a huge difference to my pain and energy levels. The days I couldn’t lie down were quite difficult.
From the day that 30 weeks ticked over, all of a sudden, I felt blinded by exhaustion. By the evening I was in a lot of pain and so tired I felt ill. I had to crawl into bed as soon as Nu was in bed to lie down. Lying down helped, but being in bed for so long made my low back and hips very sore by the early hours of the morning. Being proactive (and knowing at 27 weeks my iron levels had been at the bottom of the normal range) I scheduled an iron injection for a boost. This wasn’t without troubles, it is painful to get the injection and for the day after, and it also leaves a bit of a stain (I still had a stain from where I got it last December). But it actually made all the difference in the world.
I was simultaneously counting down, taking it one day at a time and enjoying my time with Nu.
I thought I would share this journey, as I did with the first, to provide a sense of what it’s like for a mama with Fibromyalgia to do pregnancy. Find weeks 4-6, 7-10, 11-14, 15-17, 18-20, 21-24, 25-29 here and look out for the rest soon!
Following the onset in week 22 or so, my low back and hip pain became worse. Sleeping was difficult, I had to start the night with a hot water bottle and as the night progressed it got harder to ignore. By 5am I wriggled around trying to get comfortable more than I slept. The morning was spent trying to mobilize and push through. My midday liedown became challenging for relaxing enough through the pain to rest and as the afternoon and evening wore on the pain became worse.
I tried third trimester yoga videos on YouTube (this one’s a goodie), used my heatpack religiously, took Panadol and Panadiene as sparingly as possible and attempted to pace appropriately. It felt like the business end of pregnancy came far too early!
I tried to really focus on eating nourishing food such as Bircher muesli, soups and salads. I also took a pregnancy multivitamin and probiotics to support my body.
The fatigue was reasonable (but difficult) given the battle that sleep had become. My body was heavily exhausted but I woke every one or two hours, sometimes more. Getting up was hard, but two year olds wake when they wake and you can’t ignore those loud “mama, mama” calls!
My tiny passenger seemed to make use of his growing space, simultaneously kicking and punching high and low. He always let me know he was there, growing nicely, getting ready to come.
The short Gestational diabetes test was not as awful with better planning this time. I ate a proper breakfast and took reading materials. Though the sugary drink made me feel dehydrated all afternoon!
Unfortunately the results were not good, so I had to do the glucose tolerance test…I had to fast for 10 hours and go to the lab at 8am (with no breakfast or coffee!), have a blood test, drink the same sugar drink, sit for two hours and have another blood test. I was quite unwell with it and so had to lie on the bed in fetal position to stop from vomiting, but I made it! I was pretty wiped afterwards and so hard a very quiet afternoon.
I was super pleased to find the results were “perfectly normal”!
At 28 weeks I crossed into the third trimester. With midday naps, pacing, good food, good supplements and regular physio I felt like I was coping quite well despite the battle that the nights brought (including dead arms every hour). The low back and hips were not so bad when I didn’t overdo it, the upper back was not so forgiving and I did get some regular spasming which wasn’t fun. Lying down with the heatpack, taking Panadiene and meditation helped.
By week 29 I was focused on organising the last of baby’s things so that I could rest more later, reading up on labour and enjoying my last weeks with Nu as an only child. This child brings me such joy and I really revel in the fact that he’s super rough and tumble but always has a kiss and a cuddle for his mama.
I thought I would share this journey, as I did with the first, to provide a sense of what it’s like for a mama with Fibromyalgia to do pregnancy. Find weeks 4-6, 7-10, 11-14, 15-17, 18-20, 21-24 here and look out for the rest soon!
The time to give up sleeping on my back came too soon! The night became a rather long struggle of tossing from side to side and waking up to dead arms. My back, shoulders, neck and glutes all yelled at me all night, no matter how I arranged the pillows. Even my meditation/daily rest became difficult due to positioning.
It didn’t help that Nu began really testing the boundaries and took extra energy to manage. Though, he was still very excited about baby, from 18 weeks he talked often about the next scan when he would see the baby dance.
At week 19 Nu got a really bad cold and was clingy and not sleeping well, which was really difficult. My pain issues from sleeping on my side and Nu waking me in the night and very early several times, made coping very hard.
Not having to sit at my computer for several hours four days a week really helped my neck and back. The work I did do seemed to flare it up a bit faster due to the lack of sleep.
It wasn’t all bad news, due to baby being tucked in the back it took a while for movements to become more frequent and obvious (which is the best part of pregnancy, until they wedge a foot in your ribs) but when they came it was reassuring.
One thing my second pregnancy taught me, is that the times my body craves coffee are actually the times I need rest. Having a two year old means I can’t always indulge in a full lie down meditation, however I can sit with my heat pack for a time. It makes such a difference. I can go from miserably exhausted, barely keeping my eyes open, to relatively normal after 30-45 minutes of good meditation.
Plus a 10 minute lie down can make a difference – relax (I use a variety of pillows); Close your eyes and count (in 10, out 10, in 9, out 9 etc) until zero; slowly imagine each body part relaxing (right hand thumb, first finger, second finger etc); lie for as long as you can gently breathing.
I saw an obstetrician at week 19 to confirm that my midwife could keep managing my pregnancy with me. When discussing pain relief she said she’d need to refer me back to the pain clinic, when I expressed my feelings of disappointment with the most recent doctor I saw there, she said that I may get a different doctor. *Sigh* She also said that Fibromyalgia doesn’t affect pregnancy, or vice versa. This stunned me. Pregnancy reduces sleep and places stress on the immune system and body, and Fibromyalgia is worsened through reduced sleep and stress on the immune system and body. The entire body is connected. You can’t have something happen in one area (eg. The uterus) and not affect other areas (eg. The back, neck, shoulders, hips, glutes, sleep system and immune system). So I felt like it was just me and my research in a 20 week endurance event. But I was used to that!
We made sure that my husband and Nu could attend the 20 week anatomy scan – again the baby was very busy so it took some time to capture all the pictures. We waited with baited breath to be told it was a healthy baby boy! Nu took a few hours to warm to the idea that it was a boy. I talked myself into it over the next day. Husband was happy.
I thought I would share this journey, as I did with the first, to provide a sense of what it’s like for a mama with Fibromyalgia to do pregnancy. Find weeks 4-6, 7-10, 11-14 and 15-17 here and look out for the rest soon!
Unfortunately side sleeping had become a necessity (thanks back) and my neck was not very happy with me. Despite multiple pillow changes, tossing and turning all night and medicine at bedtime, I was waking with a rather stiff and sore neck.
The first moderate neck headache occurred late in week 14 and was managed with repeated heat pack, Panadol soluble and a relatively quiet day (I had a two-year-old boy, quiet was not a word to be applied to our days!).
The physiotherapist, who does neck traction and places acupuncture needles in tight neck and upper back muscles, really helped me. Unfortunately this is not covered at all and private fees are not cheap, so I had to survive on one visit per fortnight. I highly recommend trying this for Fibromyalgia or pregnancy (just ensure they are trained in treating pregnant women as there are points to avoid and there is a slight risk, but they have to disclose this before they treat you).
I had some spotting as we headed into week 15 which gave me a little fright. It’s quite normal in the second and third trimester and is generally alright if it’s light, brown and not accompanied by pain. It would have been so great if I could feel baby move so I could double check!
Nu remained excited about baby, and often told me that he saw the baby on the TV and it was dancing (baby was busy in the scan and it took a while to get the measurements) – confirming it is a direct relation to Nu! He liked to say hi to baby -pat, kiss and do the sign of the cross (a Catholic blessing).
Somehow, while still in bed and having only been awake for a few minutes, I managed to pull a muscle in my neck while stretching out he stiffness from sleeping on my side. OUCH! I was in such agony. On the first morning I couldn’t move without severe spasms radiating down to the shoulder. Luckily, injuries heal, and by day three I could move a little better and had less pain. It took a week to get full movement back and I was rather nervous of moving from side to side in bed after that!
Despite the neck issues, I fully enjoyed the benefits of the second trimester. I relished food and our walks, I enjoyed all my projects and I managed to make a small dent in the tick list of items baby needs. I am determined to organise baby’s room and belongings before the third trimester hits so that I can focus on resting, exercising and generally trying to be well.
I was heartened to find a few blog posts by other expecting fibro/CFS mamas (or mamas when they were expecting) that showed the 20-25 week area to be relatively cope-able too.
The absence of stress and too many work hours really helped me to cope physically. Although the burden on my husband was not light. I was hoping that by not getting so run down in pregnancy and having my husband home for six weeks after, that I’d be able to pick up some work at early as five months after baby.
For the time being I enjoyed my bump and feeling my baby move.
In week 11 I went away for my sister’s graduation, that meant planes (always mess me up), long days and a different bed.
Surprisingly, my morning sickness flared up the day before 11 weeks and stayed up while I was away (I slept poorly and was quite sore). I was also hungry every two hours, I really got tired of figuring out what to eat.
My back was not a happy camper. The entire spine seemed mad at me! My neck was it’s normal, stiff and sore self and my low back was intense. I experienced a burning sensation along the lower back most of the day and night and needed to lie on a double folded winter duvet to be comfortable. My upper back went into spasm semi-regularly. My usual physiotherapist suggested I see a physio who specialised in women’s health.
Our nuchal scan (assessing the risk for some genetic diseases) was scheduled for week 13, as this week enabled my husband to make it. He got to see the baby for the first time.
I met the second of the team of two midwives who looked after me, filled in many forms and heard my precious baby’s heartbeat.
My energy levels did get a little better as week 12 progressed toward week 13, but I was still super tired and struggling with sleep. The nausea receded and the hunger became less of an issue, which was a big relief!
As my pregnancy would span winter and spring, and the baby would arrive in summer, I had quite a few seasons to address for my maternity wardrobe. I purchased three maternity/nursing bras, two pairs of maternity jeans, two tops with long sleeves and a coat. I intended to buy a few nursing tops in summer.
It had gotten more exciting and more calm once we made it to the second trimester.
I wrote these posts during my pregnancy so that I could share what it was like to do pregnancy with Fibromyalgia, you might also like these:
Motherhood for a person with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is not a short sprint, it’s an epic marathon spanning pregnancy, labour and baby’s first year. So it’s really important to get your pregnancy wellness plan underway fast.
Here are some things I have learnt for tackling the early pregnancy symptoms:
Sleep – I tried as best I could, but I had a lot back pains which made lying down difficult. I needed pain relief to get to sleep and woke often either in pain or to go to the bathroom. I had pillows to alternate and utilised brief body scans to encourage certain parts of my body to relax. I found that the Chronic Fatigue was greatly flared up and the amount of sleep I got was almost directly related to my nausea levels.
Pacing – The second time around, I was super lucky that a work contract ended at week four so I had week five off to get into a routine of rest/errand. The first time around, I had little choice and needed to work the entire time, however I worked from home and was able to schedule lie down breaks regularly – for a while there I napped at 10am and 3pm (and my body’s a rigid non napper usually!) The work/rest cycle is really best for managing pain, fatigue and pregnancy. Sometimes it may feel as if the rest needs to be longer than the work portion, but try to allow that as best you can. Some days I was so (miserably) tired but couldn’t nap and resting was the difference between coping and not. I actually lay down with my eyes closed and listened to Pride and Prejudice audio book which was a lovely treat.
Meditation – as a stubborn (my body, not me!) non napper and a troubled sleeper meditation was a lifesaver. It is useful first thing if you wake too early and cannot get back to sleep. It can be used midday, or whenever you need a lie down. Or it can be used right before bed. You can choose simple breath focused meditation, you can listen to guided meditation or do body scans. You can choose meditations specifically for pain or pregnancy. There’s a heap available on YouTube to try.
Exercise – walking is a big part of my usual pain management plan and this is no different in pregnancy. I had to pause my experiment to see if I could increase the amount I could comfortably walk without increasing the pain or fatigue. But I was able to continue gentle 20-30 minute walks all around our neighbourhood after the hardest weeks were over. During the worst weeks I managed about 10 minutes a day. Yoga was off the menu for me due to post exertion malaise, but this could return in the second trimester for me and may be useful for others in trimester one. Your body will tell you. Anything you did before is usually okay during pregnancy.
Here are three cool yoga poses for your entire pregnancy that I found https://m.youtube.com/watch?list=PLoLbQHZNNqOrHOyfkvlDDvKMi1Clz309c&v=5XKaDOYUpiw
Fuel – I needed smaller amounts of food more often, so I adjusted my meals to suit this and this helped stabilise my energy levels and avoid the more severe nausea. When I was the most sick and unable to eat I found that gently coaxing my tummy back to food with diluted orange juice, small amounts of milk, toast and then whatever I fancied worked. Crackers by the bed for midnight or 3am snacks was a handy hack!
Pain management plan – my doctor helped me to put together a system for dealing with the pain using as minimal medicinal input as possible. My big struggle has always been my neck, so I needed a dose of pregnancy suitable pain killers before bed. I took a combination paracetamol and low dose codiene mixture. I allowed myself one dose per day unless my back pain was severely breaking through the more natural methods of management. You may like to look into homeopathic remedies, using an experienced practitioner’s advice – my doctor is a big fan and I used Crampmed by Naturo Pharm.
There are a ton of natural pain control mechanisms that I have written about before (links) but a snapshot: heatpack, warm bath or shower, meditation, self massage or partner massage or paid massage, herbal topical relief cream (like arnica), gentle walk (seems counterproductive but often helps my neck and back the key word is gentle), a swim, distraction (funny videos, phone a pick me up friend), self trigger point, foam rolling, yoga poses (restorative poses for pregnancy), stretch (seriously, do this several times a day!).
Nausea – this is pretty much unavoidable but I have a few tricks for reducing it: 1. Keep your tummy from getting empty, 2. Don’t get too fatigued (using tools above), 3. Ginger lozenges or mints, 4. Acupuncture for nausea in the wrist point or the seasickness bands that hold pressure in the same point.
Going to the bathroom ALL the time – I can’t really help with this, but I do avoid anything other than water after 3pm and, otherwise, just go with the flow!
Plan – if you’re at all like me, you will find comfort in planning ahead. And write everything down because it may fall out of your head. Figure out potential parental leave options.
Enjoy – you’re growing a tiny human! Revel in that a little. Also enjoy the things you can do now and will have to give up later (weird fact, I do certain stretches and legs on a chair pose like crazy because I know I’ll have to give them up from week 16 or so!)
Do you have any tips for getting through the first trimester?
- I want to conduct some research and find some professionals who know about both pregnancy and fibromyalgia.
- I want to go to a new doctor and ask for a proper diagnosis process, just to be sure.
- I’d like to write about all this here on the blog and potentially put it into an e book to get the information out there.
I need to be free to make the decision to have a second baby myself. Pregnancy, labour and sleepless nights are physically harder for someone with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. So I need to be trusted to make the decisions that will help me cope.
Why should I just cope with life? Can’t I enjoy my babies? I don’t understand the rationale of “getting it over and done with” and I don’t hold with it for my situation. Two (plus) super hard years are still super hard years, whether I give myself enough time to recover or not!
- My boy will be at an age where he is more self-sufficient, preferably in preschool (at least three years old) so that he will get enough attention and stimulation and I would get time alone with the baby. I can’t imagine anything worse than trying to deal with another baby while my boy is still a baby himself. He has been a pretty challenging baby!
- I want to feel somewhat physically prepared, I would have the ability to plan and get my body into a place where I am more prepared than last time. For example, I would build my iron levels and keep an eye on them so that I don’t run out of stores at week 28.
- I would try to keep up a core few resistance based exercises throughout the pregnancy to keep my strength up.
- I need to be able to stop working in the third trimester, if I am struggling like I was last time, and I would need at least six months off afterwards.
- I would like to attempt to find a team, or at least a few health professionals who understand both fibromyalgia and pregnancy. After a pregnancy with only a physio (who was pregnant herself and unable to treat me in the last trimester) who understood, I need people to support me.
- I would utilise acupuncture for morning sickness in the first trimester and general wellness during pregnancy.
- I would get more done in the second trimester, so that the third trimester could be more restful and I could rest in the fact that we are prepared.
- I would do my absolute best to avoid stress throughout the pregnancy.
- I would use a belly support belt if I needed it, I avoided it last time at the advice of my physio, but I think it would have helped more than it would have hindered. The pain was too bad to endure again.
- I would use an obstetrician, barring complications, my husband would be my key coach. My husband would know and (better) advocate for me. I would try to avoid an epidural.
- I would plan a babymoon, I would try to make the first month after labour a time for me and baby to just be, together.
- This follows from the above guide, but I would treat the first three months like the “fourth trimester” as I have seen written about. I’d want the baby to be close to me, I’d utilise a sling and, especially in the first days, have baby mainly held by my husband and myself.
- I would plan and enforce the visitor rules and how to schedule family support. For example, I would have the immediate family there for only short times in the first few weeks. I wouldn’t invite other visitors for a few weeks.
- I would definitely make use of the organic cotton swaddle blankets again (our favourite brand was Aden and Anais).
- I would purchase a portacot with the built in bassinet– we made do with a carry cot last time, but I have often wished we had invested in the portacot.
- I would purchase a proper pushchair, I would invest in this key piece of baby ware, a swanky, comfortable, convertible infant seat, carry cot, baby seat combo.
- My husband would be just as involved as the first time. He would stay with us from the beginning (unlike the first time, when I was abandoned from 9pm – 9am) due to the rules of the birthing centre. He would take turns with me, he would feed baby (hence the bottle use) and he would bond with baby, as he did with our boy. Their relationship is beautiful and it creates a sense of space for me. It’s parenthood, it takes two, especially when one has chronic pain and fatigue.
- I would be more gentle with myself and advocate more strongly for myself, particularly in the babymoon phase.
- I would try to document and enjoy it as much as the first. I don’t want a marked decrease in pictures and scrapbooks because I have double the children taking up my time.