Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information available out there on how Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects pregnancy, or vice versa. Most of what is known, according to the CFIDS Association, is based on medical opinion and not facts. I guess each CFS patient who has went through pregnancy and childbirth has their “truth” as to how pregnancy affected their CFS. Each woman has to decide for herself whether or not they want to take the risk of possibly worsening their symptoms and what is to come after the child is born. While I was pregnant, I actually felt better than I did before getting pregnant for the first four to five months. After that I started going downhill and after my son’s birth I continued on a downward spiral, but my situation is not every CFS woman’s situation. Women also need to think ahead to what it will be like after the child is born and if there are already other young children in the house – how will the CFS mother get her rest? Getting enough rest is crucial for CFS patients and with motherhood getting the proper rest is hard to achieve many times.
According to the CFIDS Association, clinical experience of pregnant CFIDS patients has shown that the majority either stay the same or feel somewhat better during their pregnancy. On the other side, 1/3 of CFIDS patients experience a worsening of their symptoms (feels like a bad relapse) after giving birth. This is what happened to me.
Experts believe that the reason for this may be because of the immune system. A similar lessening of symptoms during pregnancy occurs with other autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis. The theory is that the body turns off parts of the immune system to prevent the womans body from attacking the baby as it would a virus or anything else that is not an original part of itself. The improvement is also believed to have something to do with the hormones from pregnancy also.
Clinical experience has also shown that CFS women may be at a higher risk for first trimester miscarriage but there is no formal research to back this up.
It is also not known if a mother can pass on CFS to her baby thatdevelops later in lifeand there have been no formal reports to date of a baby being born with CFS.
Another concern for CFS mothers is whether to breastfeed or not. Since the origin of CFS is unknown, and it hasn’t been proven yet if it is caused by a virus, some mothers choose not to breastfeed for this reason. A virus can be given to a baby through breast milk.
New CFS mothers may spend more time in the hospital after giving birth than healthy mothers. I was admitted to the hospital on Sunday evening and wasn’t released by my doctor to come home until Wednesday evening and I had natural childbirth.
A British survey of 27 women with CFIDS showed that half spent extra time in the hospital after delivery because of their CFIDS symptoms. You should discuss this possibility with your doctor during pregnancy so he/she is prepared to advocate for you if your insurance provider denies extra time in the hospital.
For some women with CFS, knowing what is to come after the child is born is what keeps them from having children. It takes a lot of emotional and physical energy to care for a baby, toddler and young child and if there is not a lot of family support it can be even more difficult.