Everything You Need to Know About the Relationship Between Chronic Illness, Pregnancy, & Fertility

This article is written by Melissa Waltz.

Will I be able to conceive at all? Will pregnancy make my symptoms worse? Will my baby be okay? What if I need to take medication while I’m pregnant or trying to conceive? Am I physically strong enough to carry a baby and raise a newborn?

If you’re ready to start a family and you’re among the rising number of women dealing with chronic illness, the role your condition will play in your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term is likely at top of mind.

Whether you have diabetes, arthritis, an autoimmune disorder, or another chronic disorder, it’s normal to have a lot of questions and concerns. Today, we’re going to answer some of those questions and talk about what you can do to increase your chances of having a positive experience.

How Chronic Illness Affects Fertility and Pregnancy

Of course, every situation is different, but these are some of the most common ways chronic illness can affect fertility and pregnancy.

  • It may take you longer to conceive if your condition or medications disrupt menstruation and ovulation.
  • Fatigue is one of the most common challenges of chronic illness and pregnancy, so you can expect to be even more tired than usual.
  • Nausea during the first trimester may be worse, depending on your condition and the medications you’re taking.
  • Chronic aches and pains may be intensified.
  • You may feel more stressed overall, due to the combined effects of chronic illness and the anxiety of trying to conceive and maintain a healthy pregnancy.

How Chronic Illness Could Affect Your Baby

Once again, every condition is different so you’ll want to consult with your doctor about how your illness could affect your baby. Some conditions are genetic, while others could lead to a greater risk of pregnancy complications, preterm birth, low birth weight, or developmental delays.

The most important thing you can do is educate yourself about your particular condition and seek professional advice before you try to become pregnant. Keep in mind that there are lots of tests that can be performed during pregnancy to rule out many complications that you may be concerned about.

Everything You Need to Know About the Relationship Between Chronic Illness, Pregnancy, & Fertility | The Health Sessions
All images by Yan Krukov via pexels.com

Managing Chronic Illness When Trying to Conceive and During Pregnancy

If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness and want to start a family, taking these steps will set you up for success.

1. Start with a Plan

If you have a chronic illness and you’re considering starting a family, creating a plan with your healthcare provider is the best place to start. Partner with your doctor to create a plan to manage your symptoms without putting your health, fertility, pregnancy, or baby at risk.

  • In general, the safest option will be to get your symptoms under control before you begin trying to conceive. Discuss your health history and the best ways to support your health and control your condition without risking your fertility or your ability to carry a healthy pregnancy.
  • Discuss your current medications and come up with a plan to transition away from any drugs that may be an issue during conception or pregnancy.
  • If necessary, ask for a referral to an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

2. Support Your Physical and Mental Health

A healthy pregnancy starts long before you even begin trying to get pregnant. Everyone knows you should avoid cigarettes and recreational drugs and limit alcohol when you’re trying to get pregnant, but there are lots of other things to consider, too.

  • Learn about vitamins and supplements that are beneficial for your health and your baby’s growth and development. Some should be incorporated into your routine several months before you begin trying to conceive. Herbs that help with fertility success can be incorporated into your routine to regulate your cycles as soon as you’re ready to get pregnant.
  • Pay extra attention to your diet. Focus on eating a variety of healthy foods each day to ensure that you’re getting a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients. Talk to your doctor to come up with the best eating plan to manage your health and maintain a healthy pregnancy.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress. Women who have high-stress levels often struggle to conceive and achieve a full-term pregnancy. Stress is also a major contributor to chronic pain and many other symptoms, so learning how to manage your stress is essential for success. Yoga, meditation, walking in nature, acupuncture, and massage are all great ways to manage stress, and in most cases, they can be utilized throughout your entire pregnancy.
  • Join a fertility support group. Trying to conceive can be overwhelming at the best of times, but when you’re also dealing with chronic illness, it’s even more stressful. Joining a fertility support group is a great way to connect with women who are at a similar stage of life. Having someone to talk to who understands how you’re thinking and feeling is invaluable during this time of emotional highs and lows.

Everything You Need to Know About the Relationship Between Chronic Illness, Pregnancy, & Fertility | The Health Sessions

3. Learn to Listen to Your Body

Learning to listen to your body will be invaluable when you’re trying to conceive and throughout your entire pregnancy. If you’re feeling run down and tired, give yourself permission to take it easy that day. And anytime something just doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider.

Most importantly, prioritize yourself and your baby first. Reserve your energy for the things that are important for your own health and the health of your baby and try to delegate the rest.

4. Try to Enjoy the Experience

Managing a chronic illness while you’re pregnant can be challenging. If you’re dealing with chronic pain or stress, it might be difficult to enjoy the experience of being pregnant. We understand that it can be difficult but try to stay positive as much as possible.

Final Thoughts

If you’re dealing with a chronic illness and want to start a family, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. It’s normal to be concerned about your health and the health of your baby. Working with your doctor and getting support from friends, family, and professionals is essential for success.

Depending on your condition, there are many options available for managing your symptoms and overall health that won’t put your baby at risk. And keep in mind that even if your condition is genetic, surrogacy and adoption are both wonderful ways to start a family. 

Author bio: Melissa has always been recognized for her health and wellness knowledge and gained her knack for sharing this knowledge when first asked to ghostwrite for a friend’s nutrition blog. That’s when she realized her love for writing and she began to create articles on holistic wellness and nutrition utilizing her educational background in Nutritional Science. 

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