Fibromyalgia: Does that complicate my pregnancy?

I've had a variety of weird and seemingly random health problems over the past few years. My doctor thinks it is fibromyalgia. I'm now pregnant and I wonder if you know anything about this problem and what relationship it would have to my pregnancy and my baby?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

An estimated three to six million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). We do not know much about what causes it, its precise symptomology or what treatment is very effective.

It seems that symptoms may be any of the following:

  1. Persistent pain the neck, shoulder, low back and hip
  2. Waking up without feeling rested
  3. Severe fatigue
  4. Waking frequently during the night
  5. Waking with stiffness and achiness
  6. Hypersensitivity to cold and/or heat
  7. Complaints of abdominal pain
  8. Recurrent headaches
  9. Sensations of numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  10. Constipation and diarrhea, and
  11. Anxiety and depression.

Diagnostic criteria were defined by the American College of Rheumatology in 1990. They concluded that FMS could be diagnosed by a history of widespread pain in at least 11 out of 18 specified tender points in muscular tissue. Pain was described as widespread when felt in all of the following regions: left and right sides of the body, above and below the waist, and in the axial skeleton (cervical spine, anterior chest, thoracic spine or low back).

Treatment for fibromyalgia involves an approach which is multi-faceted in order to address symptoms occurring in all systems.

Interventions to aid sleep, relieve pain and control headaches and gastro-intestinal disturbances as well as gentle exercise to aid in muscle conditioning are all necessary. Since clients differ greatly in their symptoms, it is important to get advice from someone who knows you and is also experienced in pregnancy.

Some providers have used tricyclic antidepressants to increase non-REM sleep by increasing serotonin levels. Drugs such as amitriptyline, Flexeril, imipramine or trazodone have worked well. Prozac works well as a daytime medication to help fight fatigue. Many times, trial and error will help find the correct combination. Pregnancy might be a time when the risk/benefits need to be explored with an experience care provider.

In a study by Sinclair ("Arthritis & Rheumatology," 1996) a program of education, aerobic exercise, stretching, stress management, pacing and body mechanics was seen to improve pain severity, life control, affective distress and perception of support.

I have a client who sought help through acupuncture and found it helped her quite a bit during her pregnancy. Massage and whirlpools are other options. If you can get a referral, a physical therapist can be an excellent resource.

I suppose that you know about FMS support groups, but if not, write to:
The Fibromyalgia Network
5700 Stockdale Hwy. Suite 100
Bakersfield, CA 93309
(805) 631-1950

I wish you the best with this, and thanks for writing.

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