Recently I have heard of a very strange yet natural so called 'cure' for M.E/ CFS and that is to get pregnant! This news came to me via my Nanna, of all people. She'd heard of someone that was suffering from M.E and then they got pregnant and gave birth and apparently their M.E has disappeared but this is not the first time I've heard of this either. But before I rush off to the nearest sperm donors, thankful that I am not a man I thought I'd do some research into these bold claims, that seem to be too good to be true.
According to www.njcfsa.org/FACTPREG.tml a third of women who go through pregnancy whilst suffering from M.E/ CFS will show signs of improvement during their pregnancies, due to the extra pregnancy hormones rushing around their bodies and giving them more energy, generally after the first trimester. However before anyone starts skipping pills or pricking holes in condoms they also noted that a third of women's M.E symptoms remained the same; whilst unfortunately another third actually became worse during their pregnancies and especially after the birth. Often these women needed complete bed rest throughout their pregnancy and a lot of help once the baby was born. Furthermore some women that experienced an improvement in their M.E symptoms also relapsed after the birth and the pregnancy hormones have gone but positively some continue to improve. Once the baby is born of course your level of responsibility rises and your needs become secondary to those of the baby, creating more tiredness and neglecting your own needs, which can trigger an M.E flare up. What do you do when your baby is crying but your M.E is also acting like a needy child, desperate for your full attention? You can't ignore the baby but also it does no good to ignore your body, because as we know M.E will soon get your attention in another way. So are these people who claim to have got better by having a baby simply mixing up child rearing fatigue with M.E symptoms? Not wishing to discredit them of course and of course their is evidence of some improvement for some period of time.
For me however just the thought of having a baby whilst suffering with M.E is far beyond me, I simply can't fathom it or begin to see how I would cope let alone raise a child. Let's face it just the thought of 'babymaking' is tiring enough. I simply do not see how it could improve your M.E. Firstly the actual carrying a baby, I can hardly carry myself right now and then of course there's the morning sickness and all your 'goodness' so to speak being devoured by the growing foetus. Would it not be fatigue upon fatigue? Then of course there is the birth itself. The link above also describes how most women will need a higher amount of pain relief and of course becoming too fatigued to push, which has resulted in many forceps births or cesareans. Due to this women are also more likely to need to stay in hospital after the birth for longer. Then of course you have to raise the child, nurture them and look after them possibly for the rest of your life but this must be extremely difficult when at times you can't even look after yourself. Even after some improvement there are bound to be some flare ups in that time as your responsibilities shift because again as we know and I keep banging on about there is no miracle cure only management systems. Surely there must be some degree of of guilt that you can't help them as much as you want and I imagine there would be some level of depression involved. Personally all I would want to do would be to give them my full attention and be the best parent that I could be. Just like my parents have done for me and my siblings. If anything it would make me feel worse about having M.E. Rosemary Underhill the author of the above link does note that any improvement shown during pregnancy usually dissipates once you begin caring for the child. Just look into the eyes of any any 'healthy' new parents and you can see the affect a new addition is having on their lives but add that to the consuming fatigue of M.E it just seems incomprehensible to me. How could I trust myself not to fall asleep whilst feeding the baby? Or what if my legs gave way while I was holding them? These thoughts terrify me but I doff my cap to any parents that are suffering with M..E no matter how old your children or whether you developed the condition before or after their birth.
I have looked through a forum on www.mumsnet.com about pregnancy and M.E and there is a mixed response. Some Mums have indeed improved and are luckily able to enjoy a fulfilling life with their child/ children, which is encouraging and lovely to hear. Whilst sadly others have reported that their M.E has become worse. All of them though said that they could not do it without a strong network of people to help. Family and friends and even social care if needed. Husbands to do night feeds. Relatives on 'watch' as you rest, or to cook and clean for you. Apparently this is common in Greek culture, although they have very little idea of what M.E is. I'm just showing off what I have learnt today. It's about saying yes to as much help as possible and not trying to tackle it all yourself, which is much the same as coping with M.E. As much as you need to accept help though you also need to be able to be strict about saying no. For example saying to people that they can't just drop by when they want as you need to rest.
What was sad however was that during their pregnancies not many of their midwives/ doctors took much notice of the M.E. Usually any fatigue that they were experiencing was classed as 'normal'. Some of the mothers did need to be put on bed rest which Rosemary Underhill did suggest is common. Again it's about finding people that understand and will help you through and make sure that you and the baby are safe and healthy.
So there is 'some' evidence that pregnancy can improve M.E but how long for is debatable and just as long a you are in the lucky third of people that do show signs of improvement. Does this make me want to stop writing though and ask someone to impregnate me? No, it doesn't. Firstly, asides from the reasons I've already mentioned because my M.E has taken a turn for the worst lately with the possibility of having fibromyalgia as well. It seems a long way off being 'managed' which Underhill suggests is best for anyone wanting to get pregnant with the condition. Secondly the way things are I cannot offer a child all the things that I would want to give it, not just in terms of being born into a loving partnership or financially but because I need to focus on putting my needs first, which has taken me a long time to have to do and is necessary to coping with M.E. Finally and probably most importantly, because I don't really think that I want children anyway, even before I was diagnosed, having children was never high on my list of priorities. Don't get me wrong I love kids and would probably make a good Mum but so far I have not had an overwhelming desire to have children. Perhaps one day that will change but who knows? For now my focus is on adapting to this new way of life and also trying to enjoy it as much as possible. M.E can affect many women in their prime child baring years, which obviously can cause that debate between should I risk it now? Or wait to see if I improve? By which time it may be too late. It's definitely not a decision to be taken lightly as it shouldn't be anyway. At the end of the day though as ever only each individual knows what is best for them and what they can cope with and I have the ultimate respect for those that do manage to have so called 'normal' lives and successful pregnancies, which as research has shown is perfectly possible. It's definitely inspiring. I am in no way pessimistic or doubtful as to whether these women that claim to have made a dramatic improvement during or after pregnancy "clearly did not have M.E". In fact I'm happy to hear that people out there are managing their M.E and are able to get back to work or have children. However it's not something that I will be pursuing anytime soon, as much as I want to get better. For now my bed is for sleeping. Sorry Nanna.