By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized with widespread pain. It affects millions worldwide and more commonly affects females than males.
Many females affected with fibromyalgia are diagnosed in their reproductive age and this raises concerns regarding fertility and having a normal pregnancy. Research has shown that fibromyalgia symptoms tend to worsen with menstrual periods, pregnancy, and delivery.
Fibromyalgia and fertility
There is scant evidence that fibromyalgia may interfere with a woman’s chance to get pregnant. However, as long as the woman is not completely debilitated with fibromyalgia pain, there is little reason not to consider children.
Fibromyalgia and pregnancy
The condition further has little effect on unborn babies in the pregnant mother’s womb. The main concern is regarding the body’s capability to be emotionally, mentally and physically ready to face the stress and responsibilities associated with having a baby.
Stress levels need to be kept under check during and after pregnancy to reduce the intensity and severity of the symptoms of depression.
Patients are advised to consider getting pregnant when the symptoms are less severe. A healthy diet along with regular moderate exercise helps regain strength and keeps symptoms at a manageable level.
Fibromyalgia medications and pregnancy
All medications advised for fibromyalgia may not be suitable for pregnant women. This needs to be planned and discussed with the physician treating the patient in order to have a safe pregnancy with no aggravated symptoms as well as no unwanted effects on the developing fetus.
It has been recommended that nausea during the first trimester of pregnancy needs to be treated aggressively to avoid dehydration and poor nutrition.
During pregnancy and nursing (breastfeeding) in fibromyalgia patients, treatments should be low on medications and highly non-drug approach to avoid harm to the baby. Medications however should be reserved for more disabling and recalcitrant symptoms.
Fibromyalgia and course of pregnancy
There has been little research on the course of pregnancy in fibromyalgia patients. In a study a couple of decades ago, it was seen that pregnant women with fibromyalgia report a drastic increase in the severity of their symptoms during pregnancy. The symptoms are particularly worse in the third trimester and the symptoms persisted in their severe state at least three months after delivery.
There is however no evidence of any ill effects like low birth weight, premature birth or congenital abnormalities in babies of mothers with fibromyalgia when compared to normal mothers.
There is also contradicting evidence that suggests the pregnancy causes easing of symptoms of fibromyalgia. It is hypothesized that this could be due to the extra amount of the ovarian hormone relaxin in the body during pregnancy. Relaxin may help to ease the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)
Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013