Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Implications for Women and Their Health Care Providers During the Childbearing Years

Peggy Rosati Allen, CNM, WHNP, MS, LCCE

Disclosures

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2008;53(4):289-301. 

In This Article

Abstract And Introduction

Abstract

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complex debilitating medical disorder that affects approximately 4 million persons in the United States, predominantly women. There has been little scientific exploration about the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period for women with this disorder. A review of the literature and current research findings addressing the epidemiology, diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome are presented, as well as the currently available data regarding the experience of women with chronic fatigue syndrome anticipating or experiencing pregnancy and the postpartum period. Expert opinion is presented along with current evidence to provide guidelines for the care of women with chronic fatigue syndrome during pregnancy, labor and birth, lactation, and the postpartum period.

Introduction

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a serious, complex, often debilitating medical disorder that predominantly affects women. Women of childbearing age with CFS are commonly concerned about the potential consequences of pregnancy on their health and the health of their children.[1] Misperceptions about CFS as being "all in your head," limited resources, and the lack of education among health care providers have not only been barriers to effective diagnosis and treatment of CFS but also have created a social context of illness that adds a significant burden for affected individuals and their families.[2,3,4] As increased awareness and better diagnostic tools for CFS emerge, health care providers are likely to encounter more women with CFS.

Many health care providers are not aware of the current evidence regarding CFS. Therefore, this article provides a literature review of the epidemiology, diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment of the disorder. The literature review revealed a dearth of information addressing the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period in women with CFS. Therefore, expert opinion is presented along with current evidence to provide guidelines for clinical practice in the care of women with CFS who are anticipating or experiencing pregnancy and the postpartum period.

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