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, HIV, epilepsy and 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.
Putting 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 get ready for pregnancy. Your team is led by your prenatal care provider and the provider who treats your condition. For example, if you have asthma, your team is led by your prenatal care provider and your pulmonologist (a doctor who treats lung conditions, including asthma). Your team also can include other providers who help you manage your care.
Before you try to get pregnant, make sure each provider knows about your pregnancy plans and the other providers you see. Share their contact information so you and your providers can connect easily.
Getting ready for pregnancy
- Get a preconception checkup. This is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. It helps your prenatal care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy. Go for this checkup before you start trying to get pregnant.
- 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. This can help prevent unplanned pregnancies or pregnancy during times when your condition may cause problems for you and your baby. For example, if you have an autoimmune disease like IBD, you have periods of remission (few or no symptoms) and flares (many or intense symptoms). It’s best not to 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 your 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, including 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. You may use over-the-counter (also called OTC) medicine, like pain relievers and cold medicine, to treat common conditions like a headache or a stuffy nose. Over-the-counter means you can buy the medicine without a prescription from a health care provider. But not all OTC medicines are safe to use during pregnancy. This goes for supplements and herbal, too. A supplement is a product you take to make up for certain nutrients that you don’t get enough of in the foods you eat.
Visit marchofdimes.org for more information about how to manage your health conditions, before, during and after pregnancy.