Pregnancy and chronic health conditions

If you have a chronic health condition, you aren’t alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also known as CDC), 6 in 10 adults (60 percent) living in the United States have a chronic health condition. About 4 in 10 adults (40 percent) have two or more chronic health conditions.

Chronic health conditions can affect anyone, but during pregnancy can increase your risk for certain complications. The good news is that with the right treatment and care you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

What is a chronic health condition?

A chronic health condition (also called chronic illness or chronic disease) is one that lasts for 1 year or more. Chronic health conditions need ongoing medical care and can limit a person’s usual activities and affect daily life. Some examples of chronic health conditions include autoimmune diseases (like lupus and multiple sclerosis), chronic pain, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

If you are pregnant and have a chronic health condition, here’s what you should know:

  • To best manage your condition during pregnancy, you need a team of health care providers who work together to give you the best all-around care. This team may be led by your prenatal care provider and the provider who treats your chronic health condition.
  • Because you have a chronic health condition, you may need extra prenatal checkups throughout pregnancy. At each prenatal visit, talk to your provider about your condition, your treatment plan and keeping your other providers up to date on your prenatal care. Your provider may ask you to monitor your health at home in between visits.
  • All of your providers work together to make sure any treatment you get (including medicine) is safe for you and your baby before, during and after pregnancy. You and your providers can weigh the benefits and risks of medicine you take to give you the healthiest possible pregnancy. Don’t start or stop taking any medicine without talking to each of your providers about its effect on pregnancy. Doing so may cause serious health problems.

How can medicine you take for your condition affect your pregnancy?

Many women take medicines during pregnancy to control a chronic health condition. About 9 in 10 women (90 percent) take some type of medicine during pregnancy. And 7 in 10 women (70 percent) take at least one prescription medicine during pregnancy.

Taking some medicines during pregnancy can cause serious problems, including premature birth, neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and birth defects. When you take any prescription medicine:

  • Take it exactly as your provider says to take it.
  • Don’t take it with alcohol or other drugs.
  • Don’t take someone else’s prescription medicine.
  • If you have questions or concerns about your medicine, talk to your health care providers.

How can you manage a chronic health condition after you give birth?

Even after your baby is born, your health—especially treatment for your condition—is super important. The best thing you can do for yourself and your baby is to take care of your health. Keep seeing all the providers who treat your condition. Don’t stop going to checkups because you’re no longer pregnant and you’re going to postpartum care checkups. Keep up with all your providers on your health care team.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Go to your postpartum checkups, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Tell your provider if you’re worried about any discomforts after birth.
  • Learn the warning signs of health problems after birth.
  • Get regular treatment for your condition.
  • If you’re breastfeeding and take medicine for your condition, learn how you can keep your breast milk safe for your baby.
  • Use birth control until you’re ready to get pregnant again. It’s best to wait at least 18 months between giving birth and getting pregnant again.

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