But I persevered with my coping mechanisms – quick meditations whenever I could, heat pack, ibuprofen, stretching and hot showers.
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.
This is a free printable PDF in my Resources page, sign up here to find it.
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?
More information about pregnancy and parenting with Fibromyalgia:
I’ve been running on empty since my pregnancy with Nu.
Thinking that I was fighting Fibromyalgia, I actually engaged in a drawn out raid and burn on my body. Any leeway I made was immediately voided by my overreaching ways.
There’s no denying it, a family with a mortgage in a big city can’t live on one income forever. So I rushed back to work, not realising how deep the deficit caused by pregnancy and the first year of parenthood was. I thought that “only 20 hours” was a fibro friendly compromise. And I have managed, but at a cost.
My neck has deteriorated to the point that it stops me from obtaining many whole sleep cycle most nights (90 minutes, necessary to reach the deeper sleep state and repair). We’re meant to have about four a night. No pain relief can mute the pain and it’s always tight and stiff.
So, at the conclusion of my work contract, I have chosen to take a break. There are many things I need to do, but I will hopefully have the freedom to rest as well.
Here are the self care practices I plan to engage in:
- Rest and meditation
- Swimming and spa soaks
- Good, whole food
I’m really hoping I get another appointment with the pain clinic and that they might have something, other than medicines that don’t work or have severe side effects, to help. If I can control my neck, I can sleep. If I could sleep, properly, regularly, the possibilities are endless!
It’s not easy to carve out 20 uninterrupted minutes between work and the toddler. But when I see a gap, I snatch it up.
Want more about natural options for fighting fibromyalgia?
A theory about Fibromyalgia, is that the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) may be stuck in overdrive. Meditation promotes a calming of this system, allowing the parasympathetic nervous system to activate.
The benefits of meditation are probably due to 20 minutes of:
- Lying down
- Using my heatpack on my neck
- A break from noise
- Time alone
- Complete focus on my body, accepting it as it is
- Not struggling to nap, which I can’t, so using the time calmly and effectively
- The body’s response to complete relaxation, allowing the sympathetic nervous system to slow down
It is a tool for well being that I keep close, it is something that transcends simple pain/fatigue relief and gives me time to focus on myself as a whole – my san culpa (mantra/goal of practice) is, “I am well; physically, spiritually and emotionally.”
Elaine R. Ferguson, in her book on holistic healing agrees: “Practicing this [mindfulness] meditation affects your mind, brain, body and behavior in ways that promote whole-person health.” P83 Super Healing: Engaging our Mind, Body and Spirit to Create Optimal Health and Well-Being.
And it’s vital that we don’t neglect our spiritual and emotional components of self in the quest for relief from physical issues. I feel there’s a close tie between my emotions and my pain/fatigue levels – fear or sadness have an effect on my sympathetic nervous system, which affects the body physically. So I am researching both body and mind effects on Fibromyalgia.
Journaling Your Mindfulness Practice
You never know what is going to come up, so it might be a good idea to keep a journal handy when you are practicing so you can work through the ideas at a later stage. Simply write them down, let them go and return to your practice.
Would you like some ideas for how to journal about your mindfulness practice? Check out this ultimate guide to journaling your mindfulness practice at Relax Like a Boss.
When you join my newsletter list you will receive access to my free resources which includes a report on Meditation for Fibromyalgia and my You vs Fibromyalgia micro course which includes a section on the central nervous system!
Meditation and Me
It took me a while to appreciate meditation, years, in fact, for me to consider giving up precious reading time for it.
Suddenly, in 2014, I read a book about mindfulness meditation, found a YouTube video of a Yoga Nidra session that I particularly liked (avoiding the spiritual/religious aspects of it) and then I was away running.
I have meditations, body scans and Yoga Nidra of varying lengths that I switch between as I like. I also use the body scan technique most nights to relax into sleep. The focus on the breath is like second nature to fall into.
Funnily enough, when I am more fatigued, I need the short and sweet practices – to avoid falling asleep and feeling groggy and gross when I wake. When I have slightly more energy (and time), I opt for longer ones. My usual best length is 20 minutes.
20 minutes seems to be a good number for me, I respond well to 20 minutes of yoga or Pilates, 20 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of meditation.
For some links to get your practice started see this post:
Meditation provides true rest for body and mind and I think that is what I so desperately need in my day.
Free workshop on Mindfulness for the Chronic Life
Would you like to check out my free mindfulness workshop to learn the benefits of practice, how we can get started and a breathing practice we can try immediately? Sign up here!
No Type “yoga for Fibromyalgia” into Google and you will find a wealth of information trails to follow.
Countless blogs and articles cover the benefits of yoga, meditation and mindfulness for people with Fibromyalgia.
The crossover of yoga into the Western world has resulted in a more mainstream practice and scientific research backing up what practitioners have known for years.
There’s even research that has found encouraging correlations between regular yoga practice and decreases in pain, fatigue and sleep problems.
The Yoga for Fibromyalgia Podcast Video
The yoga for those with Fibromyalgia is relatively relaxing and breath-focused. Restorative yoga is highly recommended.
A sequence I created with a yoga instructor has given me the basis for regular practice, with modifications for days where I haven’t the energy or pain levels to cope with a full sequence and for days when I feel I can push a little further.
I have some gentle, restorative poses that I enact naturally. Especially legs on a chair and child’s pose.
After more than a decade of learning to live well with Fibromyalgia, perhaps the most valuable learning I possess is the ability to tune in to my body. I am constantly analysing what works, what doesn’t, what’s causing what pain, what helps which body parts.
I bring this into my yoga journey, which has had ebbs and flows over the amount of time I’ve dealt with the pain.
This article is a free downloadable PDF in my Resources page. Sign up here to find it.
The value of yoga for a body with pain and fatigue can be found in:
- The awareness of what you are doing with your body in each pose, consciously engaging the correct muscles, taking the correct stretch or benefit on offer.
- The basis of the breath. Breathing is key to yoga and to accessing the parasympathetic nervous system. Even the stretches encourage full use of the breath, offering relaxation benefits to stretches.
- The invitation to be outside of usual mind chatter. It’s so easy to be lost in the movement, the breath and the experience of the pose.
- The gentle strengthening. A favoured pose, Downward Facing Dog utilises all the key muscle groups.
- The ease of fitting practice in. Some days it can be 20 minutes on the mat, engaged in a flowing sequence. Others it can be a few key stretches in snippets of minutes. On yet others it can be one restorative pose for 10 minutes. Corpse pose can be used when sleep is being elusive, with or without a body scan relaxation.
The practice of yoga includes many options and I definitely make use of the tools it offers.
Other posts you might like
Some yoga tools:
- Sequences focused on strengthening – I do a modified sun salutation sequence with additions when I feel I can. Here’s a sequence recommended for those with Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Stretching poses – like this video for child’s pose
- Restorative sequences, or one off poses
- Yoga Nidra – guided meditation “yogic sleep“
- Yogic breathing
I have been trying to fit Yoga Nidra in more often. I have been struggling with sleep for various reasons and my son has been getting up early and I believe the 20 minute sessions I manage to fit in really help. The other day my fatigue levels were around 5/10 for the rest of the afternoon! Here’s the YouTube video I’ve been using.
My ideal yoga practice would look like this:
Sun salutations first thing, gentle yogic stretches at work, yoga nidra after work and legs on the chair pose in the evening. Or any one of these in a day. I never do all of them.
Perhaps one of the best parts of yoga for Fibromyalgia, is that you can fine tune it to your experience, your day, your mood. If the fatigue is bad and post exertion malaise has been plaguing you, you can choose a few poses and take breaks. If a particular body part has been upset, you can gently stretch all the muscles around it to free it up. If you’re desperate for a break from your mind and it’s constant noise, you can do Yoga Nidra and let the voice take over for a time.
Has anyone else found benefit from yoga practice or parts of it?
I’m so into yoga for Fibromyalgia that I have created a lot of resources about it:
It’s a free report in my Resources page.
It’s a chapter in my book Melissa vs Fibromyalgia
The tension of chronic illness, aside from any symptoms, is the desire to fight it and the need to accept it.
I’ve been reading Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by Emily P. Freeman.
It has been a breath of fresh air.
Freeman speaks of fighting the city builder within and nurturing the bench sitter instead. The bench sitter is the one who sits in the moment. Who sits with others in their moments, a witness, not a fixer. Who allows themselves to process their own moments.
Frequently I’ve had to combat my runaway desire for achievement, to reorient myself to what success means for me.
More recently my challenge is to accept things as they are. Accept my body as and where it is. Accept the day as it is. Not to stress over it.
The yoga instructor who helped me to create a sequence reminded me of it, accept your body where it is. (Not where it used to be).
I’ve been trying to take stock of my actions and reactions. Just notice.
And to increase my time to relax and release.
No Tiny Mission here, just an attitude adjustment and a commitment to take all practicable steps to reduce stress in my life. And to try to be more accepting.
I lost sight of the mission.
I do that. Often. I get buried by fatigue and pain and then spiral into a steadily descending panicky chaos.
Hi, I’m Melissa and I am a panicker. Before I even realise I’ve gone into survival mode, before I’ve realised the pain and/or fatigue have ramped up so much. I panic.
After two weeks of barely surviving – new job, bad cold, baby’s first birthday party, baby spurting more teeth (and still not on daylight saving time) and husband on night shift, I was feeling more than a little sorry for myself. The negativity spiralled with the fatigue.
I ended up crying on the shower floor. And then analysing things relentlessly.
Now I’m back.
I’ve remembered why I’m doing this. Why I’m trying to make this job work. What my goals are. What my mission is (to live, love and be well despite the fibromyalgia – this prong is to have a meaningful part-time career).
Some things you could do, once you realise you’re in the spiral:
-Ask for help
-Go to bed
-Keep track of what you’re mission is and a list of what makes you happy.
-Keep putting one step in front of the other.
I’m not sure this situation is going to work for me and my family, but I’m able to think more clearly now that I’ve identified my spiral.
When I’m observing myself, I notice it. The increase in heartrate, that feeling in your stomach, the general all over heat. Sometimes it happens for very mild reasons. Other times, stressful things occur and I’m excellent in the moment and freak out after. I’m freakishly calm in some situations that I would expect anxiety.
When I’m reading/researching about fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue/ME etc. Stress comes up frequently.
Meditation is supposed to help. Breathing. Resting. Things which I am not good at, unless you include reading in your definition of rest (some fibro/CFS experts do, some don’t).
Meditation, in the small form that I did it, after a practice, disappeared with said practice. It’s bliss to do full body relaxation after a good yoga workout. But the post exertion malaise is at it’s worst after yoga, since I had my baby, so I can only do portions of the routine.
“Testing many others who had meditated for ten thousand hours or more and many who had not, [they] felt obliged to conclude that those who had sat still for years had achieved a level of happiness that was, quite literally, off the charts, unseen before in neurological literature.” (P.25) The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, Pico Iyer.
Iyer goes on to mention that some employees at a giant healthcare company experienced a reduction in stress, by a third, after an hour of yoga a week! (P.45)
“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow.
In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention.
And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still.” (P.66)
I’ve had a liberating thought. What if we reclaim our days, what if we add as many “10 nice minutes” as possible?
Here’s a list of the things we could do in 10 good minutes:
- Read (book nerd alert, always number one if my brain is not super fogged)
- Have a cup of tea or coffee and savour it
- A hot shower
- Lie down with a heat pack
- Lie down with a heat pack and a book
- Skype a dear friend or sister
- Eat a cupcake, or other deliciously good piece of food, savour it!
- Lie down with your legs up on a couch (yoga pose for calm)
- Watch half of a funny sitcom, or the whole thing and make it 20 good minutes!
- Sit in the sun
- Sit in the sun with a book
- Pray The Serenity Prayer with sincerity and meaning
- Read some good, inspiring blog posts that you’ve saved somewhere (like Pocket or Evernote)
- Give yourself a good foot rub (bonus with some lavender essential oil and coconut oil)
- Give yourself a good neck and shoulder massage with a heating cream
- Stretch, gently and mindfully
- Read a beautiful poem and just soak it up (I love Desiderata)
- Have a snuggle with your dog/cat/fluffy creature
- Have a snuggle with your baby, if you have one and they let you!
- Some form of intimacy with your significant other
- Breathe, deeply and mindfully
- Make your art (journal, write, colour, draw, imagine…)
- Write a “thankful list” for future reference
Do you have more to add to the list?
In a crazy confluence of signs I keep coming across the idea to meditate. My new doctor suggested it, it is in the research, it is recommended by a few new websites I have found and I have recently found Beat Fatigue with Yoga by Fiona Agombar.
This book begins by explaining what causes fatigue, goes into an introduction to yoga and the “eight limbs”, provides many yoga poses for practice and concludes with suggested routines according to the level of fatigue. Agombar’s own story is included at the end, she writes of her struggle with ME/CFS and how she used yoga to be well.
In seeing the recommendations for those with “moderate CFS” I have come to realise that I had been attempting too strenuous a yoga routine for my new state. I have had to admit that during pregnancy, and even now, I have to consider my CFS more moderate than mild. This irks me, but gives me a good place to build on for my yoga work.
I don’t buy into the spiritual aspect of yoga. But I do, wholeheartedly, get the idea of bodily balance, chemical upheaval and the natural rhythm of the body. Having an overactive nervous system, yoga calms me. My body tends to react positively to the physical poses and, pre pregnancy, I was pleased with how far I had advanced in my practice.
Because of this book, I decided that my second Tiny Mission (which I will write about as I see results) would be to do Total Relaxation Pose daily as a gateway to meditation. For about three days, I did this faithfully, on the fourth day I forgot and on the fifth I went a step further and did a guided relaxation for 15 minutes. It was bliss! I felt so nice afterwards! It is my hope that I shall build relaxation/meditation into my daily routine.
This book seems to be a great introduction to doing yoga for those with fatigue issues, I’d recommend it as a nice place to start because yoga can be adapted for most people, but it is great to be written by someone who understands CFS and post exertional malaise.