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My Third Birth with Fibromyalgia

It’s taken a while, seven weeks to be precise, but it is time to share a brief account of my third birth story while living with fibromyalgia.

If you have followed any of this pregnancy journey (my third), you will know that this has been a much better pregnancy despite severe pelvis issues and it is all thanks to low dose naltrexone. You can check out my Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia playlist on YouTube for my honest pregnancy updates.

my third birth story with fibromyalgia, the day Nathaniel joined us

Early labour

In the closing days of October (2018) I began to experience pre labour pains. I spent the weekend with period like pains which turned into mild, irregular contractions. During this time I read and ate and relaxed, knowing full well it might be a long journey to getting baby. On the Monday things escalated and I knew I couldn’t safely drive my children or look after them well, so I asked my husband to stay home from work. By that evening the contractions were getting closer together and more painful but I was coping well using my breath and heat pack.

At 3am I thought I had lasted til nearly the end and called my midwife. I was 3cm. Sigh. After a few more hours the contractions were still manageable but the pelvis pains were not, I began to panic with each contraction due to the low back and front of my pelvis feeling like they were being ripped apart.

Heavily pregnant 2018 Melissa Reynolds
One of my last bump pics

We went to the hospital with the plan to get some rest with pain relief while my midwife got some sleep after an overnight delivery. By the time the hospital midwife examined me I was in active labour (4cm) so they gave me gas and left me to it for some time. At 11am I begged for the epidural to give me a break from the pelvis pain. Unfortunately it didn’t cover the pelvis pain at all. So every three minutes I continued to feel the excruciating pain.

Thinking that it would be some time yet, I sent my husband off to get some lunch so my midwife could place the catheter and check my progress. The second she tried to get in there my body began to push explosively. I had no control. Suddenly I was fully dilated and pushing. My midwife called my husband. I desperately sucked on the gas for some relief from the pelvis feeling like it was being wrenched apart.

24 minutes of pushing and just over two hours of active labour produced my precious baby boy. He was born so fast he was a bit shocked upon arrival and needed a little air to remind his lungs to breathe. Within minutes he was on my chest and not long after that he was nursing.

It was amazing!

He arrived…
nathaniel montage

Nathaniel Joseph was born weighing a healthy 3.76kg.

I was so happy that it hadn’t taken anywhere near as long as with my other two sons. It made the world of difference for recovery. So did going home that evening. I got to sleep in my own bed (well, nurse) and eat my own food and drink copious amounts of Milo. For some reason when I am low on energy I crave Milo. It’s probably the iron and other vitamins as well as the sugar.

Our nursing journey will fill a whole other post, but the short version is that we tackled cracked and bleeding nipples, thrush, mastitis and many growth spurts in order to achieve my longest breastfeeding journey. We are still going! I am pretty proud of myself. I do have to say that I wouldn’t be nursing if it wasn’t for my husband. In those first weeks he cooked, cleaned and did the lion’s share of care for my older two boys. Nursing may be reliant upon the mama, but mama wouldn’t have survived without dada. We also have had a lot of help, especially with the older boys. There haven’t been too many days where I have been alone the whole day with all three, which has really helped as Nathaniel doesn’t nap much in his bed and gets quite bad wind.

I am so blessed.

For more about pregnancy, parenting and nursing with fibromyalgia:

Nursing with Fibromyalgia: My Experience and Some Research

Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Fibromyalgia (2018 Edition)

Healthy Practices I’m Doing with Three Tiny Ones and a Chronic Illness

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Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 15-17

weeks 15-17Unfortunately 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.


I wrote these posts to share what it was like to do pregnancy with Fibromyalgia. Find all of the diaries on my Pregnancy Diaries and Resources page.

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Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries: Weeks 11-14

weeks 11.14In 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, find the rest of the posts on my Pregnancy Diaries and Resources page.

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Sign up to receive access to my free PDF reports: Tips for Managing Early Pregnancy SymptomsNatural Pain Relief Options During Pregnancy and my free micro course Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia: Arm Yourself with Knowledge.

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My book is everything I have learnt and researched over two pregnancies
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Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries 7-10 Weeks

Week seven was when things started to turn around a little. I had been rather sick in week six and had managed to claw my way back by eating every two or three hours, going to bed early and limiting activity.fibro mama pregnancy diaries 7.10

I had lost 1.5kg in the previous week, so actually spent weeks 6-7 lighter than I had managed in years.

My favourite foods, which I devoured unreservedly, were olives, hashbrowns, eggs, salmon and cheese. I still found comfort in marmite toast and wheatbix. I also found that I didn’t get hungry, so much as starving all of a sudden!

Nu, Coop and I managed to return to semi-regular 20 minute walks which took a bit of my limited energy levels, but really helped my body. I also utilised my Pilates resistance band and did some gentle arm and leg work, focusing on stretching. My swissball was useful for pelvic circles to keep my lower back moving.

I didn’t remember sleep being so hard last time! I struggled a lot, going to bed exhausted, but taking ages to get comfortable. And waking about 5am, in pain, only dozing from then. It takes three pillows and an extra duvet under my body to help my low back.

When I could avoid doing too much, my neck was much better. Almost less of a problem than my lower back.

At week eight baby was officially considered a fetus and was about the size of a kidney bean. I met the midwife and had a dating scan. Nu came with me and was enthralled by the little peanut. He told dada that he “saw the baba on the TV”.

At week nine I experienced an increase in fatigue, which caused a day of being bed bound and then evened out again. It seemed my body takes a day or two at each surge of hormones!


I wrote these posts during my pregnancy so that I could share what it was like to do pregnancy with Fibromyalgia. Find the rest on my Pregnancy Diaries and Resources page.

More information about pregnancy and Fibromyalgia

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Sign up to receive access to my free PDF reports: Tips for Managing Early Pregnancy SymptomsNatural Pain Relief Options During Pregnancy and my free micro course Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia: Arm Yourself with Knowledge.

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My book is everything I have learnt and researched through two pregnancies
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Fibro Mama Pregnancy Diaries 4-6 Weeks

I knew something was up when I wanted vegetable soup for dessert one night. Sure enough, the next morning I tested for a big fat positive.fibro mama pregnancy diaries

Baby number two was on it’s way.

I had had a low back burn for a week, this was my new, awful PMS symptom since back labour with Nu. In addition to this I was mildly nauseas and had a mad craving for meat (I’m not usually meat’s biggest fan).

Spearmint flavoured mints and ginger lozenges were really helpful for controlling the nausea in these weeks.

Continuing as I began, I had vegetable soup everyday and my regular fruit and vegetable smoothie in the morning.

Luckily, the week before I found out I had finished a work contract and had decided to give myself a rest, I was running on empty. So the following week was somewhat blissful with less neck pain.

The fatigue was something else. A constant sleepiness. Yet an inability to sleep for long periods of time (Fibromyalgia usual-ness for me) and daylight savings ruining my mornings (waking at 6, the old 7) was rough. I was in bed by 9 each night to read and then sleep early.

Meditation was delicious, 30 minutes (when I could get a break from the toddler) was really nice for the pain and fatigue.
I did this one a lot – Float Away Stress: Relaxation for Pregnancy and Childbirth

Our walks stayed at 20-30 minutes and that was quite enough.

With all the physical impacts I found it useful to stay focused on the miraculous aspects of pregnancy…the highlight of week five was that baby’s tiny heart begins to beat! I was very excited to hear it and see it!


I wrote these posts throughout my pregnancy to share what it was like to do pregnancy with Fibromyalgia. Find the rest of the pregnancy diaries in my Pregnancy Diaries and Resources page.

For more information about pregnancy and Fibromyalgia

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Sign up to receive access to my free PDF reports: Tips for Managing Early Pregnancy SymptomsNatural Pain Relief Options During Pregnancy and my free micro course Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia: Arm Yourself with Knowledge.

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My book is everything I have learnt and researched through two pregnancies

 

 

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Nursing with Fibromyalgia: My Experience and Some Research

Like many areas of living with Fibromyalgia, I have found there to be little information on nursing with Fibromyalgia.

The Research

There are a few articles, like this one on Fibromyalgia Symptoms that mentions research but provides no links, “Numerous studies have been done evaluating how fibromyalgia influences breastfeeding. These studies all indicate that it is very hard to breastfeed with fibromyalgia.”Nursing with Fibromyalgia

The Fibromyalgia Health Center on WebMD posted an article in 2004 referencing a new study about nursing with Fibromyalgia.  This study was very small, with just nine mothers included:

“All nine women felt that they were not successful in their attempts to breastfeed, and felt frustrated,” Schaefer writes. Difficulties included muscle soreness, pain, and stiffness; fatigue; a perceived shortage of breast milk; and sore nipples.”

The article lists a few tips from the study which includes good nutrition, proper rest and paying attention to where and how you are nursing.

Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Fibromyalgia (2018 Edition)

Navigating Pain Relief in Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia

Necessary Baby Items for a Fibro Parent

The Survey

Please do remember that we are all unique, how we experience fibromyalgia and how we experience pregnancy or nursing. My story will not reflect yours. Before I give you my experiences, I’d like to show you some information from a survey I undertook when I was writing my book Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia.

Affiliate notice: Please note that some of my links are affiliate links, if you make a purchase using these links I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you, every little bit helps me create these resources. 

In response to the question, did you manage to nurse? 40% responded that they did for 12 months or more! 20% managed for both 12 month and 6 month periods (that’s 40% for 6-12 months!). 15% didn’t manage to nurse. 5% exclusively expressed. There were 20 respondents, so the sample size was small, but these are encouraging results.

table showing how long women with fibromyalgia nursed for
Survey results: How long respondents with Fibromyalgia nursed

Some advice from a respondent about nursing:

“The two hardest things for me have been lack of sleep, and being forced to sit in the same position for long periods of time while nursing, or while my son slept. I kept five different pillows on the couch, and used them to prop myself and him up at every angle. Really helped.”

My Experiences

Having had three children now, I thought I would share my experience. As with all areas of this illness, my experience may not be the same as another’s with Fibromyalgia, so my difficulties do not translate to all women with Fibromyalgia.

I found nursing extremely painful with my first two children, I had cracked and sore nipples from the second day cluster feeding with both babies. Both times, it took a long time for them to recover. Expressing was less painful, but still resulted in sore breasts.

The differences in situations were extreme.nursing with fibromyalgia

Baby One

With Nu, we found he was excessively windy and by week two we were going back and forward to doctors at the after hours centre. At last, at week three, we were sent to the hospital and there they found that he had pyloric stenosis – a thickened sphincter that wouldn’t let food out of the stomach to be digested, so it was forced back up and out of his mouth in projectile vomiting. After several days in hospital and a small operation, we came home and found that he doubled the amount he was taking at each feed. My supply couldn’t keep up, despite pumping three hourly the entire time he was in the hospital, my supply decreased in real numbers and relative numbers. I managed to keep him exclusively on breast milk until eight weeks. At this point whenever it was time to express, I would cry, so I knew it was time to finish up. I was just tired and sore and Nu was not a very settled baby and so cried the entire time I tried to express.

I was so relieved when parenting no longer needed to include my breasts. I am proud that I managed to give him such a good start in life, but I also wish I had given up sooner, but the pressure on mothers to breastfeed is enormous, even my expressing rather than feeding directly was seen as failure. My doctor and my Plunket Nurse were both supportive as they understood the Fibromyalgia and how hard I had tried.

Baby Two

With W I managed to persevere a little longer. My right breast got so sore and cracked from the second day cluster feeding that when I first tried to express, I expressed blood in the milk, it was a frightening sight! I persevered with the one side for another week before that became too sore (this guy is a rough feeder and liked to pull away with it clenched between his gums). I expressed four hourly during the day and once in the middle of the night (that was hard to leave baby sleeping after giving him a bottle and stay awake). My supply stayed static no matter what I did to try to increase it, so by week four, I was only just producing enough from both breasts for one feed. Luckily I had a lot of frozen milk from the first weeks of expressing.

This time I knew it didn’t have to be all or nothing (this is an important message for all mamas, you can mix feed!), I had more knowledge and therefore more power. I also ignored any messages of my being deficient or not trying hard enough. I managed to add in a physical feed each evening after he had spent the previous few hours having more regular bottles in his nightly cluster feed, this meant I didn’t have to worry about him not getting enough and he got some comfort from it at the end of a long day. It hurt, but swapping which breast I gave him each night helped me to cope. I worked with my midwife to reduce to a few feeds a day of my milk and add in formula for the shortfall. My plan was to give him whatever breast milk I could, for as long as I could.

As we know, plans do not always work out. Little W developed reflux and vomited my milk and got very sore. Through long weeks of trial and error we found that I could feed him directly (my measly 40 ml or so) followed immediately by a bottle of thickened formula, reducing the vomiting to spills and the gas pains greatly decreased. At seven weeks I was still managing to mix feed, with the miniscule supply I produced.

Due to the very different positions in my health and a lot more knowledge and confidence, I believe it was slightly easier the second time around. However, by 12 weeks my supply had completely dried up. I was really happy that I had been able to provide him with these vital nutrients for that long. I was also happy to not have to deal with expressing, feeding and bottles – it had begun to feel like my whole life revolved around his feeding. And at this time my life turned to revolving around his sleep, or lack of!

Pumping

One thing that helped me both times was my breast-pump. I used the Unimom Hospital Grade Double Expressing Machine (not currently available in US or UK Amazon) for these two. With my third, I have decided that I will not be able to express more than once or twice a day given that I have two other children four and under so I have the Avent Electric Pump (single, but you can get double) on my Amazon Baby Registry. FYI: Did you know that Amazon has a baby registry? You can sign up here Shop Amazon – Create an Amazon Baby Registry It’s basically a mobile registry (available anywhere!) and you will be eligible for discounts and rewards. If you’re going to purchase some of your items from Amazon, you may as well sign up (I did).

pumping or expressing for your babyFor a big guide on pumping for your baby see this post! 

I also only used Avent bottles because I liked the teat shape (it mimics the breast-shape) and found that helped my boys to avoid nipple confusion. We introduced bottles of expressed milk very early, so please don’t worry when people talk about waiting until breastfeeding is “fully established” – because of all the women I have heard of who have done this, they never got their baby to take a bottle. This may be alright for you, but for me, I needed that ability to leave someone else to do a feed.

Baby Three (2019 update)

I have finally got a more successful story for you! After a much more comfortable pregnancy (even with severe pelvis issues that resulted in my being put off work at week 23 and on crutches and is still causing trouble at nine months postpartum) nursing was not such a kick in the pants. I had gotten my health into a much better place prior to pregnancy and reaped the rewards in pregnancy and nursing. This was due to low dose naltrexone and my ability to sleep in more than one hour blocks. You can find my post here about LDN.

My doctor and I agreed I would stay on it because the potential risks were minimal and the benefit of my sleeping and managing my pain were astounding. That was a personal decision, made by reading the research, listening to other women’s experiences and talking with my doctor.

We did have a bumpy start with the nursing. For three months we battled thrush and it was so distressing as in those early months every time I nursed I would have to stomp my feet and grit my teeth with the initial pain. I had to really push for people to take me seriously and realise it was not just me (or the fibromyalgia). So please do explore continued pain when breastfeeding. If I weren’t so committed to my personal goal of three months (at that stage) I would definitely have given up in those early weeks. I also got mastitis. I felt suddenly worse and I thought the fibromyalgia was just catching up with me, thankfully I went to the doctor and realised I had a bad case and needed antibiotics immediately.

We got through all of this and at about four months I realised that there was no trepidation about having to feed him and no pain! We nursed exclusively until he started solids and were still going at 9.5 months (August 2019). I have no end date in mind. We will see how it goes.

My tips for nursing with Fibromyalgia are what most nursing women are told:

  • Try to rest as much as you can
  • Eat as well as you can
  • Drink lots of water
  • Make yourself as comfortable as possible when you feed
  • Know that whatever you manage to give your baby is awesome and that you cannot fail. You will be a great mama whether you feed physically, by expressed breast milk or by formula. A fed baby and a happy mama are both minimum requirements. (Your well being counts as much as baby’s and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!)
  • Advocate for yourself – check out any pain (do not just chalk it up to the fibromyalgia – sure, it might be, but check it out)

I’d love to hear about your experiences with nursing with Fibromaylgia, if only so that others have something to read when they Google about it.


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Fibro Mama Baby Diaries: The First Month

I fell in love the moment they put him on my chest. Despite the doctors dealing with my excessive bleeding and then stitching me up, I was lost in my son. He calmly laid on my chest and looked at me as I drank him in. fibro-mama-baby-diaries-month-one
I didn’t get that with Nu because he had been taken for some medical attention immediately.
I was blown away by these first precious moments. My boy, who I had worked so hard to meet, was here. After some time cataloguing all his fingers and toes and marvelling at this creature, we managed a full first feed. I thought things would be easier this time.
But again I found that after nearly 39 weeks of pregnancy and 32 hours of labour, breastfeeding is a real kick in the pants!
The second day cluster feeding led to a mangled nipple on one side, so I had to feed the baby from one and express from the other from day three.
It didn’t fully heal and the other side got very sore from overuse, so by week two I was expressing exclusively.
My energy levels and pain didn’t help production, so baby outgrew the amount I could produce per feed by three and a half weeks. Far from being stressed, I knew that it didn’t have to be all or nothing. I had the tools to mix feed so that he could continue to have breastmilk for as long as I could produce any.
Far from being the “easy” baby I’d hoped for after Nu and his being hospitalized for week three, W didn’t like to sleep in his Moses basket and only slept in my arms or on my husband’s chest for the first couple of weeks. By week three we did manage to get him to sleep in the basket after his last feed and until his 4am feed (when he wanted to stay with mama).
My body coped really well until both my husband and I hit the wall at three and a half weeks. Baby had a few days of extreme fussiness, hungry but gassy is not a good combination.
But I persevered with my coping mechanisms – quick meditations whenever I could, heat pack, ibuprofen, stretching and hot showers.
In addition to the Fibromyalgia, general post-birth pains and sleeplessness, I received a name for the severe low back and pelvis pain I had been experiencing: symphisis pubis disorder. Basically, my pelvis spread a little too far, probably due to the prolonged labour and having to use the stirrups. This made things difficult as I couldn’t spread my legs very far apart – no squatting, no stepping over things, keeping my legs together when getting out of bed etc. I had been so looking forward to being able to sleep on my back again, but this wasn’t possible yet. My physio suggested pelvic tilts and to see my doctor if it hadn’t gotten better by six weeks.
Nu adjusted really well to being a big brother. The sleep habits we instilled in him saved us as he slept from 7.30pm to 7am and then had a nap in the afternoon. Our constant refrain was “quieter!” As he speaks so loudly and gets very excited. He gives many kisses to baby and likes to help to feed him.
Pregnancy, labour and the first weeks seem much like rugby…You can plan all you like and utilise all the tools at your disposal, but in the end you have to put your head down and run in! I’m just super thankful for Husband and his help, because I don’t know if I could have coped without him.

Want to know more about pregnancy and parenting with Fibromyalgia?

Pregnancy andFibromyalgia_resources

definitive edition pregnancy and fibro
My book is everything I have researched and learnt through two pregnancies.