Chronic health conditions: How to plan your pregnancy

KEY POINTS

  • Getting control over your chronic health conditions before pregnancy can help you have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby.

  • A health care team should include health care providers like your prenatal care provider and the provider who treats your condition.

  • Your providers can help you plan when to get pregnant and help get your health condition under control.

A chronic health condition is one that lasts for 1 year or more that needs ongoing medical care and can limit your usual activities and affect daily life.  Chronic health conditions include:

  • Asthma
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure or hypertension
  • HIV
  • Epilepsy
  • Mental health conditions

If you have a chronic health condition, getting it under control before pregnancy can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.  

How do I put together a health care team? 

If you have a chronic health condition, you need a team of health care providers who work together to help you get your condition under control and help you get ready for pregnancy.  This team includes your prenatal care provider and the provider who treats your condition.

For example, if you have asthma, your prenatal care provider and your pulmonologist (a specialist who treats lung conditions).lead your team.  Your team can also include other providers who help you manage your care. 

Before you get pregnant, make sure each provider knows about your pregnancy plans and tell them who the other providers you see are.  Share their contact information so your providers can easily connect.

How do I get ready for pregnancy? 

  • Get a preconception checkup before you start trying to get pregnant to help your prenatal care provider make sure your body is ready for pregnancy
  • Talk to your providers about when to get pregnant.  They can help you think about the best time to get pregnant and help you choose birth control until you’re ready for pregnancy.  For example, if you have an autoimmune disease like inflammatory bowel disease (also called IBD)  you have periods of remission (few or no symptoms)  and flares (many or intense symptoms).  It’s best to not get pregnant when your disease is flaring, when you’ve started a new treatment or when you’re taking certain medicines.  Using birth control and planning for your pregnancy can help reduce risk of complications. 
  • Work with your providers to get your condition under control.  For example, if you have preexisting diabetes, work to get it under control 3 to 6 months before pregnancy.  Monitor your blood sugar, take your diabetes medicine, eat healthy foods and be active every day.
  • Talk to your providers to make sure your treatment is safe for you and your baby when you do get pregnant.  Working with your provider team, you can make decisions about treatment like prescription medicines.  Don’t start or stop taking any prescription medicine without talking to your providers first. Make sure any provider who prescribes you medicine knows that you’re trying to get pregnant.
  • Talk to your providers about all the medicines you take.  This includes prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, supplements and herbal products.

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