For parents-to-be and their loved ones, pregnancy is a wonderful, almost magical time, filled with joy and anticipation. For expecting women with chronic conditions though, it can also bring anxiety and discomfort.
But according to Dr Agnes Tisane, a gynaecologist with Melomed Private Hospitals, this stress can be avoided.
And with the right professional medical advice and interventions, pregnancy and delivery can proceed normally, and any risks to mother and baby minimised.
With February being Reproductive Awareness Month, Dr Tisane offers her advice.
Find more advice on pregnancy in the Parent24 PREGNANCY hub, where you'll find all our pregnancy information in one place
Understand that pregnancy is risky for all moms-to-be
“The more we learn about the biological processes in pregnancy, and the wondrous, mostly invisible transformation of mom-to-be and unborn child, the more amazed we are."
Yet, as amazing as it can be, Dr Tisane advises that all pregnancies come with a certain amount of risk, a factor that increases for women living with a chronic health condition.
From diabetes to hypertension: Monitoring the condition is key
“Even in the healthiest of women, a chronic illness can reduce the chances of a risk-free pregnancy further," she says, adding that if you live with "a chronic condition like hypertension or diabetes, suffer from a skin ailment like psoriasis, or are obese, it’s important to get professional medical advice early."
And you can start even before conceiving the gynaecologist says with pre-conception counselling, and once you've conceived "assessment of medication, and monitoring of the chronic condition as the pregnancy progresses" is key, Dr Tisane urges.
This is important as some chronic conditions’ symptoms may become aggravated during pregnancy.
Women with diabetes, for example, must take particular care with nutrition, she says.
Women who suffer from IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may also be more prone to complications around fertility and pregnancy.
A condition like preeclampsia – hypertension which develops after the fifth month of pregnancy – only affects about two percent of pregnancies but is serious and must be treated as such.
When to worry
Dr Tisane says that there is no need for alarm when you've covered all your bases, and strongly warns against playing doctor with online searches.
"Sometimes an anxious parent-to-be or family member, friend or colleague might search on the internet for information about complications in pregnancy resulting from a chronic condition. They might find a frightening, worst-case scenario that causes unnecessary alarm. Rather see a professional early.”
"It’s important to get sober, scientific findings from a qualified professional rather than being unnecessarily concerned."
Are you pregnant and living with a preexising chronic condition? What's been your biggest concern so far? Tell us your story.
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