Pregnancy with ME/CFS

Pregnancy when you have ME/CFS need not be any more complicated than a 'normal' pregnancy. It will be a journey of many discoveries (especially if it is your first) and although it may be tough at times having a baby in your arms will be more than worth any difficulties you experience.

How is it different from a 'normal' pregnancy?

There has been very little research into pregnancy in sufferers of ME/CFS, but what research there has been does not show any obvious affect of the ME/CFS upon the growing baby. Your ME/CFS may be affected by the pregnancy though, a lot of women find their ME is slightly less severe during certain stages of pregnancy, but a small minority find their ME worse. You should see your GP when you find out your pregnant and they will refer you to a midwife who will oversee your pregnancy. You will not need to see a consultant unless any complications arise from the pregnancy.

Although the care you will recieve during your pregnancy need be no different than that of a person in full health it is important to make sure that your caregivers know you have ME/CFS. Don't expect them to know much about the illness and its affect on pregnancy and birth so try to read up and ask questions from other people with ME/CFS who have had babies. If you are unable to leave your house your midwife should be able to make home visits.

Taking care of you and baby

Now that you are pregnant it is especially important to make sure not to overdo things. It is important to rest well as you will soon have another life totally dependant on you, if you are still struggling to use pacing effectively now would be a good time to learn it better. If you find pregnancy has made your ME/CFS worse try and restrict yourself to the most essential tasks and get your partner to take as much of the load as possible. If necessary look into getting a cleaner or home help, even if you don't think you'll need one until after the baby's born you will have a lot more time now to find one you get along with.

If you are someone who finds it especially hard to let go of responsibilities and obligations remember that your baby's needs are far more important than those of relatives who want you to visit etc, and pacing yourself well now will not only keep your illness more stable but let your relatives know that you are not always able to do what they want. This will prove an especially important lesson for them once baby has arrived as you will certainly have a lot less time and energy for other peoples demands then.

You also need to try and follow the guidelines of avoiding alcohol, smoking, medications (unless your gp/ chemist says they are ok for use during pregnancy) and eating as healthily as you can manage. See my article on Preparing for Pregnancy for more details on this.

Which parts of the pregnancy will be hardest?

As with any 'normal' pregnancy the hardest parts are the first and third trimester. During the first trimester hormone levels can cause high levels of fatigue and nausia. The fatigue you will experience in the first trimester will be unlike ME/CFS fatigue though in that it is more of a sleepy fatigue than a body fatigue, so extra sleep may be all you need to get your through this stage.

The third trimester,especially the last few weeks, is probably the hardest part of pregnancy. The extra demand put upon your body by your growing baby (not to mention the extra weight you'll be carrying by then!) will cause more fatigue again, and it is this stage of pregnancy where you will be most likely to need extra support. It is also the most exciting stage of pregnancy, with your baby seeming more and more real as time passes, being able to see your tummy moving as your baby kicks and turns is truely incredible.

Of course the part of pregnancy that everyone both fears and looks forward to is the birth, but I shall cover that in another article.

If you are wanting to have a holiday or have some other major event try and plan it for during the second trimester when most people have more energy.

Going without medications

Having to cope without your normal medications can make pregnancy a lot harder. The first trimester is the time when your growing baby is most sensitive to prescription drugs, but you may be able to take some prescription drugs after this period. Talk to your doctor as he/she will be able to advise you on how safe your medications are.

Online pregnancy groups

I personally really enjoyed joining a group of women expecting babies in the same month as me, being able to share first kicks and other experiences is great fun and support. There are lots of these groups online, so you should be able to find one that suits you.