Living with Chronic Pain
Preparing for Pregnancy and Motherhood While Living With Chronic Pain
Welcoming a new baby into a family takes a lot of preparation; this is especially true when the expecting mother deals with chronic pain. However, there are things women with chronic pain can do both before getting pregnant and before giving birth to make pregnancy and motherhood a bit easier.
Six ways to prepare for pregnancy and motherhood while dealing with chronic pain include the following:
- If possible, talk to your doctor before getting pregnant. An unplanned pregnancy can present challenges for women with a chronic condition. If possible, women should talk with their doctor before getting pregnant about medications that may need to be discontinued or steps that may need to be taken to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
- Make sure you are as healthy as possible before getting pregnant. Making sure a chronic illness or condition is as stable as possible before getting pregnant helps promote a healthier and safer pregnancy. Prioritizing sleep, eating nutritious meals, staying hydrated, and getting physical activity improve overall well-being and can also help reduce pain.
- Prepare for the unexpected. Certain conditions associated with chronic pain may increase the chances of adverse outcomes during pregnancy. For example, women with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) have a greater chance of giving birth prematurely, requiring a cesarean section, and having a baby who needs care in a neonatal intensive care unit than women without AS. Communicating with doctors about these potential risks can both ease the fear of the unknown and identify any steps that can be taken to minimize risks.
- Make a postpartum care plan. Women with chronic pain may need additional check-ups or care after giving birth to ensure they are recovering well. Making these plans and appointments before the baby is born reduces unneeded additional stress.
- Plan for either breastfeeding or formula feeding. Women should consult with their physician about whether breastfeeding or formula feeding is the best choice for their situation. Certain medical conditions and medications may interfere with breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not a safe option, investigate other options such as donor breast milk or formula.
- Take care of as much as possible before the baby is born. Lack of sleep, increased responsibilities, and stress during the first days and weeks with an infant can decrease energy levels and increase chronic pain. Any steps that can be taken during pregnancy to save time and energy after giving birth can help. Examples include making and freezing some simple meals, setting up a comfortable location for feeding the baby, and decluttering the home.