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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome During Pregnancy

5 min read
What Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Pregnancy is a major decision of life. CFS or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis- ME and as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome -CFIDS) is a serious concern during pregnancy and the dangers are not fully known due to minimal research on the subject. As the name expresses, chronic means long-term and fatigue means tiredness, so CFS is characterized by extreme tiredness that will not pass off by taking rest.
Fatigued pregnant woman

What Are The Symptoms Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

The symptoms of CFS vary from person to person. The most common symptom is tiredness, which is very severe that it will affect your daily life activities. Other symptoms are:

  • Muscle pain
  • Frequent head ache
  • A frequent sore throat
  • Sleep disorders, feeling fatigued even after ample sleep
  • Experiencing extreme tiredness for more than 24 hours, after some physical or mental activities
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in armpit and neck
  • Joint pain without redness or swelling
  • Lack of concentration
What Are The Causes Of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome During Pregnancy?

The reasons for CFS during pregnancy is still unknown. This can be happen at any time of your pregnancy, even if you don’t have a history. Let us go through some factors which could lead to CFS:

  • Virus infection: Most of the symptoms of CFS are similar to viral infections. It is also seen that some people develop CFS suddenly after a viral attack. So the role of viral infection in triggering CFS can’t be ruled out
  • Immune system problem: Overreacting or under reacting of the immune system is seen in some CFS patients, which lead to the presumption that immune system abnormalities may be a cause which will accelerate CFS
  • Hormonal imbalances: Women go through many hormonal changes during the pregnancy time. Detailed studies in some patient show some hormones are produced abnormally high level and some hormones are produced lower level than needed
  • Emotional conditions: Even though the psychological and emotional condition is not considered as primary factors to cause CFS, they are strongly associated with fatigue speculating that they have an influence in triggering CFS

Chronic fatigue

How Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Diagnosed?

Even experts have no clear idea about the mechanism which are responsible for CFS. Thus diagnosing CFS is difficult. The doctors usually rule out other possible diseases based on the symptoms (which can be done through various tests), thus coming to the final diagnosis of CFS if the symptoms last for more than four months.

I Am Pregnant With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, What Are The Implications?

The impact of CFS during pregnancy may vary from one woman to another. Studies have shown that one-third of the pregnant CFS patients show improvement in symptoms (which usually occur after the first trimester due to the effect of pregnancy hormones), one-third remain unchanged and in the remaining one-third of women, the symptoms get worse. Even if the symptoms of CFS it remain unchanged, for some women it will make the pregnancy period very difficult. There are lots of differences between the tiredness during normal pregnancy and a tiredness of a pregnant woman suffering from CFS. CFS could drain out all your physical and intellectual strength during pregnancy time.
For example, a majority of the pregnant women will go through morning sickness during their early stages (first trimester) of pregnancy. Whereas, in women with CFS, this condition will be more severe (hyperemesis gravidarum), lasting throughout the day and will continue to the next two trimesters. These extremities will make the pregnancy period of a woman with CFS very difficult. Read more about morning sickness in pregnancy here.
Mood swings are very common during pregnancy. Pregnant women suffering from CFS shows the sign of dejection and tends to detach from public gatherings.
Chronic fatigue syndrome

Which Part Of Pregnancy Will Be Hardest With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

As in the normal pregnancy, first and the third trimester will be harder for the pregnant women with CFS. It is seen the rate of miscarriage is four times higher among the women suffering from CFS than that of normal women. So the first trimester of a women suffering from CFS needs special attention. High-level of fatigue and nausea can be expected at this stage. The third trimester is featured with breathing difficulties, swellings in the face and feet, heartburn and difficulty in moving around. As the demand of your body increases your fatigue also increases, adding challenges overcome during the third trimester.

How Can Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Be Treated During Pregnancy?

Particular medicines have not developed yet for the treatment of CFS. Usually doctors treat for the symptoms. During your pregnancy time, the medicine intake should be done only under the supervision of your doctor. The medicines you used before your pregnancy for CFS might not be safe for you and your unborn baby. Doctors usually strongly recommend discontinuing the pain-killer and antidepressants you used for CFS and switch on to non-pharmacological treatment such as:

  1. Healthy diet:
    Though there are no studies proves the influence of food in the treatment of CFS, you can always follow a healthy diet which gives you the energy to face your day-to-day challenges. Always remember to include:

    • Fiber rich food for good digestion
    • Fish or flax seeds which are rich in Omega three fatty acids
    • Plenty of water
    • Starchy food which help to minimize your tiredness due to nausea.
  2. Graded exercise therapy(GET):
    Graded exercise therapy is highly recommended during pregnancy period for women suffering from CFS. Consult a therapist and design exercise programs that suit your condition which helps to reduce the intensity of your syndrome and makes you get through your pregnancy period with less pain and tiredness. Usually, it is designed in 1:3 ratio. One minute exercise followed by three minutes rest. Gradually levels and duration are increased. Remember that pushing you beyond your limit is not allowed at this stage
  3. Alternative therapies:
    Other therapies such as yoga, meditation, relaxation techniques will help you increase your mental abilities thereby your physical abilities gradually. Remember to consult a health therapist before planning your therapy because certain postures and methods are not recommended while you are pregnant

Let us go through some statistics. About 60% of people having CFS are women. 80% of women suffering from CFS comes under the child-bearing age group. Most of the women with CFS have undergone a successful pregnancy and delivery and are blessed with healthy babies. So don’t worry if you belong to that group. With a good supporting system (good therapist with intense knowledge of CFS and a husband who is willing to take more responsibilities in your pregnancy period and later in the process of bringing up the child), you can succeed this stage of your life.

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