Being Pregnant With a Chronic Disease

What You Need to Know About Being Pregnant with a Chronic Illness

If you’re here because you’re nervous about being pregnant while also living with a chronic illness, we’re here to tell you: Don’t worry. With proper care and caution, most pregnant people go on to have healthy, happy babies. 

While pregnancy can trigger chronic illness in some pregnant people, many others become pregnant while already managing other chronic conditions, like: 

  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health condition

Here’s what you need to know about having a healthy pregnancy while living with a chronic illness. 

How will pregnancy affect my chronic illness? 

Pregnancy can exacerbate some symptoms of chronic conditions — raising blood pressure, for example. Your condition may also put you at risk for premature delivery or other complications. But according to the healthcare advocacy group March of Dimes, people “with chronic health conditions can and do have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.” However, you’re probably going to be spending a lot of time with your doctor or doctors — before and after you give birth. 

That’s a good thing. Stay in close contact with your medical professionals as your body starts to change and your baby continues to grow. How you feel in your body and in your head are all relevant to your health and safety, so keeping a journal and regularly talking to your physician can be good for not just ensuring you’re healthy but can also help you track changes and notice patterns in how your body is responding to the pregnancy and the effect it’s having on your condition. 

Asthma and Pregnancy 

A study in the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that asthma is common during pregnancy, and that its prevalence is actually increasing in the community. 

The study found that as many as 45 percent of women needed to seek medical help, which led to poor outcomes for mothers and their babies, like low birth weight and preterm delivery. But with proper asthma management and control, and with ongoing check-ins with your physician, you can avoid symptoms and complications. The NCBI study recommends: 

  • Managing asthma before conception and closely throughout pregnancy 
  • Reviewing your condition every four weeks 
  • Making a written action plan with your physician 

The study also underscores the improvements that have been made in treatment of asthma in pregnant people, so don’t be scared. Just communicate and take good care of yourself. 

Epilepsy and Pregnancy 

We don’t mind continuing to emphasize that most people with chronic illnesses, like epilepsy, go on to have perfectly healthy pregnancies and babies. 

If you’re epileptic, it might be necessary to adjust your medication, depending on what you’re taking to prevent seizures, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you do have a seizure while pregnant, be in touch with your healthcare provider, who will help you take next steps to ensure everything’s all right. 

Mental Health and Pregnancy 

U.S. News reports that with the prevalence of mental health conditions among women — such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder — it’s quite common for pregnant people to have to contend with this issue. 

We don’t want to sound like a broken record, but your healthcare provider really is your go-to resource for any of your concerns. The overwhelming majority of people with mental health conditions have healthy pregnancies, but sometimes require extra care and monitoring. 

The stressful truth is that stress isn’t good for your body — whether you’re pregnant or not — so it’s important to take measures to reduce stressors in your life. Make it a priority to: 

  • Take walks or get exercise that feels good 
  • Stay hydrated 
  • Do breathing exercises 
  • Keep a journal
  • Talk to a trusted listener about how you’re feeling

Diabetes, High Blood Pressure, and Pregnancy 

These manageable conditions require extra monitoring in the months leading up to conception and during pregnancy. Carefully tracking blood sugars and pressure will help you to stay on top of patterns and changes that may indicate a complication. 

For women with diabetes and high blood pressure, the usual risks of chronic illness are there, but still low with proper management and care. The CDC recommends close communication with your doctor, a healthy diet, exercise, and continued management of your condition with medication and monitoring. 

The takeaway is that there’s no such thing as a risk-free pregnancy for anybody, whether they live with chronic illness or not. Being smart about your treatments, checking in with your doctor, and staying educated will help you have a happy, healthy pregnancy and birth.