Ways to Cope in the First Trimester: Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain & Fatigue

The first trimester can be hard for anyone, let alone a woman with fibromyalgia, chronic pain and chronic fatigue. Pregnancy with fibromyalgia is not a picnic, although some women do experience a remission from their symptoms. I was so wrong when I thought that several years of fatigue and a decade of chronic pain could prepare me for this whole new level of fatigue, nausea – and by extension, pain.
For ease of language, I refer to fibromyalgia most often, but this incorporates chronic pain, chronic fatigue and insomnia. I personally have the chronic pain condition myofascial pain syndrome as well, so my experience between the two is indistinguishable.
I had to learn the hard way, through personal experience, how to manage pregnancy with  fibromyalgia before I found enough research to be useful, so I share everything on this blog so it isn’t as hard for you.
pregnancy with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, ways to cope in the first trimester

Here’s my tips for coping with the first trimester:

  • Acupuncture for nausea I found this to be a total lifesaver, my physio knew the right spots for hitting that nausea caused by the whirling hormones in my body. She also gave me a pressure point stimulator on my wrist that I could press when I needed. Unfortunately, my existing conditions mixed with the pregnancy problems and I couldn’t separate them, I had no idea how much was “reasonable” or “normal” for pregnancy. Try also: ginger and peppermint.
  • Rest when you can – this is something I couldn’t ignore. There were days when I got up at 7 and needed a nap at 10. I was so lucky to work from home! Rest, rest, rest. You won’t get much when the baby comes. I wasn’t able to, but make a rule of not going out after 7 too often, that would have been so awesome. (I haven’t yet learnt to properly stand up for myself, maybe one day I’ll master this). Since I wrote this article, I have profoundly benefited from meditation, see more about meditation here
For a sneak peek into the third trimester when pregnant with chronic pain see here
  • Keep walking – I did my absolute best to keep exercising. Sometimes I couldn’t, other times I managed 20 minutes (something I continued until my last day of pregnancy, and for which I’m thankful for). If walking is out of reach, a bed yoga routine could be an idea.
  • Eat little and often – this is something that’s natural to my metabolism, but I found that eating less amounts, more often helped. If I had food in my tummy, but not too much, I was less prone to nausea and I had more energy. Yes it is best to focus on vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fats. But if carbohydrates are calling you and you can’t stomach anything else, go for it! Just try to stick with wholegrain rather than refined flours.
  • Find your Shapes – find that food that helps your tummy when you’re nauseous. At first, what helped changed weekly. But after a while Shapes (small, flavoured crackers) became my go-to. I must have gone through a dozen boxes in my first trimester!
  • Manage your pain as best as you can – Ideally you will have previously discussed what medicines you can and cannot continue to take while pregnant with your doctor. If not, make an appointment as soon as possible to discuss it with a knowledgeable (and compassionate) practitioner. Also utilise all the natural pain management mechanisms possible. Rest, sleep, warm bath, heat pack, stretching etc.

This post was written after my first pregnancy and before my second two (when I really refined what helped!) so do check out “pregnancy” category in the category box for more articles to help. 

Head Pain

I got stuck a few weeks ago.

I kept recycling some stressors around in my head. With the negativity came a boost in pain and fatigue. I felt awful.

Now that I’m out of it and have some distance, I was able to recognise it for what it was. Unnecessary fear and anxiety.

If only I could learn to be more hardy about my limits and not get so down when other people the fibro relief bookdon’t get them. (An ongoing point of learning)

I’m reading The Fibromyalgia Relief Book: 213 Ideas for Improving the Quality of Your Life by Miryam Erlich Williamson. I’ve taken many notes, including some exercises to do at work for my neck. This quote spoke to me:

“…fear and anxiety accentuate pain. If you can get your emotions under control, you will have taken a giant step toward controlling your pain.” P108

It’s so true, yet I constantly forget. When I can maintain a positive mindset, I’m doing my body a favour. Also, it makes a life that’s already hard nicer.

Awesome Website Resource

t’s hard enough to live with pain and fatigue every day of your life. Without people claiming you can be cured of you do the right thing.

The reality is that the spectrum of these illnesses are so different that some things work for others and some don’t. Some swear by chiropractic care, I choose acupuncture provided by a physiotherapist. Some people can work full time and cope, I found that reducing to 30 hours a week dramatically improved my life.

I’ve read about an approach that recommends the eradication of salicylates, which is hard because they seem to be in just about everything.

Another recommends a specific drug. Another detoxification.

But the most recommended approach, the one that I take, is to try to live as healthily as possible. The way we are all supposed to live.

I recently came across a fantastic website resource for a guide to a way of living as healthily as possible – 

This person has fibromyalgia and works with clients who have fibromyalgia, she’s compiled a website with a whole range of useful tools to consider trying.

I knew she was the real deal when I read:
I do not endorse a cure. However, it has brought my severe fibro pain from a 7, 8 or 9 level to a 2, 3, or 4  level.”

She shares a great “protocol” that she follows.

Essentially it is healthy eating, gentle exercise, supplementation of vitamins or minerals you’re short of, meditation and good sleep.

It is worth a squizz as I found it encouraging. She affirms many of my approaches. Including things I’m trying to be firm on after realising they’re so useful -honouring your body clock and resting enough.

While it’s not good to dwell on your symptoms, it is good to research and try positive ways to be well. This is one resource I will go back to again and again.

Simple Things That Help Me Exercise

When your muscles are clenched, with some muscles screaming louder than others and you’re so tired that bedtime is all you can think about, exercise isn’t your top priority. But, ironically, light exercise can help with fatigue. It also helps to strengthen the muscles that so desperately ache.
Here are the simple things that help me exercise:

  • My dog – he needs a walk most days, knowing that’s his favourite time of day encourages me to go.
  • Knowledge of my body – if I don’t keep it up I slip backward in my progress. In a surprisingly short amount of time, how far I can walk without too much pain in my legs afterward, can decrease.
  • Willpower – anything I achieve with fibro/CFS takes a lot of willpower. It’d be easier to let myself lie on the couch more often than not, but if I (gently) push myself, while respecting my limits, it’s worth it. 
  • Enjoyment – I enjoy the type of exercise I do, mostly walking and Pilates or yoga, so I want to do it.
  • My baby – my little buddy likes walking as much as I do. He enjoys watching the new sights and then being lulled to sleep by the motion. Sometimes it is the longest break I get from having to hold him – which helps my back!

I have to remind myself regularly, even if the baby is fussy when we get home, to stretch. Stretching is very important as I think that my muscles are super prone to clenching and getting tight from use. 

Women, Jobs and Babies

Even with a fantastic husband, the burden of care of our baby is on me.

I never thought too much about feminism until I had a baby. I was, and remain grateful to the women pioneers who enabled me to vote, work and be independent.

Simone de Beauvoir believed that the two keys for safeguarding women’s freedom are paid work and contraception. (Deborah G. Felder’s analysis in A Bookshelf of Our Own p.137)

But now that I’m a mama I’m feeling the burden of being “allowed” to work. It’s expected. It’s necessary for our economic survival.

There hasn’t yet been a shift in the balance of responsibility for children.

I will still be the main caregiver.

I must somehow get up to him in the middle of the night, get up early, get him ready, work, get him through the evening grumps until his bedtime and somehow fit in some housework! (Never mind any hobbies – how I miss reading for longer than 10 minute stints!)

All while having chronic pain and fatigue – that is aggravated by my work.
I’m somewhat lucky, in that I am currently contracting and can earn (just) enough to enable me to work 20-25 hours. But full time would be ideal in helping to pay down a mortgage that’s had three interest rate rises this year.

Unfortunately I can’t physically cope with full time work. This is something my husband struggles with in living with me and the fibro/chronic fatigue.

The current circumstances are hard enough for me physically – my husband working 10 hour shifts, coming home exhausted, and me with our baby nearly 24/7.

In addition to this, there is an expectation that women breastfeed until baby is six or even 12 months.

Where are we to get the energy from? How are we to exercise? See friends? Pursue a hobby?

I have no answers. But this superwoman expectation is ridiculous.

Happier at Home – A Book Review

In line with my current fascination with being well, which includes being happy, I’ve been reading a lot of books in this area.

Affiliate notice: Some of my links may be affiliate links, if you make a purchase using these links I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life has been an excellent addition to my reading list.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin a book review by Melissa vs Fibromyalgia

She has studied happiness extensively and has a blog and another book dedicated to it. Her bibliography reads like my new to-read list.

Synopsis from GoodReads:

Starting in September (the new January), Rubin dedicated a school year—September through May—to making her home a place of greater simplicity, comfort, and love.

In The Happiness Project, she worked out general theories of happiness. Here she goes deeper on factors that matter for home, such as possessions, marriage, time, and parenthood. How can she control the cubicle in her pocket? How might she spotlight her family’s treasured possessions? And it really was time to replace that dud toaster.

Each month, Rubin tackles a different theme as she experiments with concrete, manageable resolutions—and this time, she coaxes her family to try some resolutions, as well. 

More posts you might like:

Free Printables from Melissa vs Fibromyalgia Book
Yoga for Chronic Pain by Kayla Kurin Book Review
High Energy Happiness – A Book Review

Rubin combines personal anecdotes and thorough research as she outlines her monthly experiments. Being somewhat nerdy, nothing excites me more (in a non-fiction book) than a sentence that begins – “research suggests…”

“Research suggests that mindful people tend to be happier, are more likely to feel self-confident and grateful and less likely to feel anxious or depressed, and have heightened self-knowledge.” P41

She’s not selling a universal prescription for happiness. She’s offering her experience and research so that we can find our own keys to happiness. Rubin writes in a genuine, easily accessible manner. I find her writing a joy to read. All non-fiction writers ought to be able to weave a story in the same way a fiction author does -and Rubin does this beautifully.

You can find for yourself Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home: Kiss More, Jump More, Abandon a Project, Read Samuel Johnson, and My Other Experiments in the Practice of Everyday Life. If you’re curious about her first book The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle and Generally Have More Fun you can get that here. I highly recommend them both, mouthful titles that they are.

Nerdy note:

If you read a lot, like me (I read around 100 books per year), then you might like Amazon Kindle Unlimited! Just sign up here. Amazon Kindle Unlimited gives you unlimited reading (say what?) and unlimited listening to their audio books. If brain fog is an issue and you need to re read over again, it’s all there. Happy reading!

For more information about being well with Fibromyalgia:

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