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header image for blog A pregnant woman sits and reviews chart images with her doctor a caption reads How To Manage Pregnancy and Chronic Pain

How To Manage Pregnancy and Chronic Pain

By Amanda Trout, D.O.

Pain management has to change when you’re pregnant, but it doesn’t have to be a scary prospect. Many pregnant pain patients actually find that their chronic pain improves during pregnancy. 

About half of the people we see find that their pain levels are actually better in pregnancy and half the people are about the same. Of course, towards the end of pregnancy, everyone has a little bit of pregnancy pain. The baby is getting really big, so there’s naturally a lot of stress on the body. 

For those that are in pain management already, their treatment plans have to change quite a bit when they’re pregnant. For patients who have had severe chronic pain and are in treatment, many of the medications that we use in pain management cannot be used during pregnancy. This is because most of the medications that we use in pain management will cross over to the baby, which isn’t safe. 

We generally end up moving pregnant patients off of medication for those that we can and for those that cannot, we spend a lot of time working with the baby’s pediatrician and their OBGYN to make sure that the medications will be alright. 

The other aspects of pain management, like physical therapy and rehabilitation, can continue, but they have to be done with more care to accommodate the baby. We do encourage pregnant pain patients to continue doing daily exercises, stretching, and continuing to work their back and joints to make sure that they don’t get stiff or worsen their pain levels. It’s critical to keep things moving! 

Pain management is very different during pregnancy and breastfeeding, but in many cases, it’s actually a lot better for pregnant women. We also have lots of experience working with women who are wanting to get pregnant and are in pain management. We’ve got a wealth of information and support for you, to help make your pregnancy easier and reduce pain. 

Myths Around Chronic Pain And Pregnancy

There are tons of myths around pregnancy that can make folks experiencing chronic pain scared or even unsure if they should try to get pregnant at all. One of the big myths is that chronic pain is going to get much worse during pregnancy, which definitely is not true. 

A lot of women do very well in pregnancy, even coming off of medications. When you’re pregnant, you release a lot of hormones that allow your body to relax. The hormones effectively lessen and even totally dissipate pain. It’s nature’s pain medication, specifically engineered to work for the mother and the baby. 

As far as nursing goes, there are the same kind of rules as pregnancy. Most of the medications that we use will cross over into breast milk and we have to be careful with that. Sometimes women aren’t able to breastfeed on medications, but usually with breastfeeding, like pregnancy, you release hormones to be a little bit more comfortable.

During the nursing period, women are able to handle pain pretty well and there are some procedures that we can do to help the pain go away and abate for months at a time. To undertake these procedures you only have to come off of nursing for 24 hours, which is totally doable if you can pump ahead of time.  

After those hormones dispel, your chronic pain may come back and we’ll treat it in the same way that we were treated before. Some women experience a long-lasting and even permanent positive change in their chronic pain conditions. 

Of course, there’s also a pervasive myth when it comes to pain management and pregnancy, that you should just sit down and let your baby grow. It stems from the idea that women with chronic pain conditions will have a tougher pregnancy and need to be more delicate with their movements. 

Actually, the more active that you can be during your pregnancy, the better off you’ll be afterward. It helps a lot with the birth as well, easing the process and making it less painful. The human body adjusts to pregnancy and makes it possible for women with all sorts of diverse conditions to give birth. Just because you have a certain disease or condition does not mean that you’ll have to be on bed rest or avoid any physical activities. 

It’s always important to check with your doctor about your specific situation, but in most cases, you can still lead a relatively active lifestyle. 

Are You A Chronic Pain Patient Considering Pregnancy?

If you suffer from chronic pain conditions and are considering getting pregnant, we encourage you to come in and speak with us. When we see women who are on pain medication and undergoing routine pain management procedures like injections, we work with them to put together a plan. 

Together with your pain management team and OBGYN, we can advise you on the path to take when you are pregnant and help dispel any worries that you may have. Beginning the process before you are pregnant isn’t necessary, but it could help put your mind at ease! It can be very relaxing because you’ll know that we were going to take care of it for you, rather than having to struggle or guess on your own. 

Pregnancy is a huge life step and we understand how overwhelming it can seem. Add in something like chronic pain and you can feel very intimidated! However, the human body is amazing and has evolved to make pregnancy as painless and easy as possible. 

Of course, there are all these little aches and pains associated with pregnancy, but there are thousands of years of women that have been through it and passed down their wisdom.

There are so many strategies and techniques that we can implement to make you feel better. You just have to kind of be open-minded to it and realize that it’s going to be a little different for you as a chronic pain patient. 

We absolutely want to see you if you’re thinking about being pregnant or immediately when you become pregnant to help to make the transition a better experience. We’re here to ease your anxiety and take the extra stress off your plate!