How to Prepare for Pregnancy When You Have Pre-Existing Health Problems

  • By Fay Irungu
  • 12 March 2020
  • 5 minute read
How to Prepare for Pregnancy When You Have Pre-Existing Health Problems | The Health Sessions

This article is written by Fay Irungu.

Before planning to become pregnant, women should take certain steps to help reduce any risk to you and your unborn baby. Ideally, you want to be in proper health before becoming pregnant.

But when you have a chronic illness, how can you successfully prepare for pregnancy despite your pre-existing health problems? 

The first trimester is very crucial to a baby’s development. However, it’s not unusual to not realize you’re pregnant several weeks after conception. The best thing to do is to take care of yourself before becoming pregnant.

We recommend getting a preconception exam by your healthcare provider before getting pregnant. Your overall health will be checked during that visit, and your doctor will let you know of any risk factors that could make your pregnancy difficult.

You can be your healthiest before conception by preparing in advance. The preconception exam includes:

1. Genetic testing

Since several genetic problems could be passed down in families, a review of possible genetic issues is essential. Such problems include Tay-Sachs disease and sickle cell anemia. Luckily, some genetic problems can be identified via blood tests before you get pregnant.

2. Family medical history

Your family medical history helps you find out if there are any underlying medical conditions in your family, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and developmental disabilities.

3. Checking for infection

This is important in making sure you’re safe from any infections that could be harmful to both you and the fetus.

How to Prepare for Pregnancy When You Have Pre-Existing Health Problems | The Health Sessions

4. Your medical history

A review of your personal medical history will help your doctor single out medical conditions that could require special care during your pregnancy like diabetes, anemia, epilepsy, high blood pressure, and allergies.

Taking your medical history will bring light to any previous surgeries. It will also help your doctor know about your past pregnancy histories like previous pregnancy complications, number of pregnancies, length of pregnancies, and pregnancies.

If you already have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, or preeclampsia, you should mention this to your doctor if you intend to get pregnant or the minute you find out you’re pregnant. 

5. Update your shots or vaccines

You should ensure you’re up to date on your shots and vaccines. Your doctor may want to check your immunity to German measles or rubella. Getting these diseases while pregnant could result in congenital disabilities or miscarriage.

Women who aren’t immune will be given a vaccine a month before conception to provide immunity. Pregnant women should avoid getting vaccines while pregnant.

Managing Your Chronic Illness 

Women with health problems need to take extreme care of their health before, while and after they get pregnant. It is crucial to stay in close correlation with your doctor if you have pre-existing conditions. Watch what you’re eating and drinking at all times and schedule for regular check ups as often as you can. 

While you pay attention to these tips, women with chronic illnesses should never hesitate to share their medical history because it is important to discuss conditions like diabetes, rheumatism or heart problems, because some conditions could worsen due to pregnancy.  

Discuss with your doctors and ask all the necessary questions before you prepare for pregnancy. For instance, will your condition worsen due to pregnancy? Can you still take your regular meds? How do you manage your daily symptoms when you cannot take a lot of over-the-counter drugs? 

How to Prepare for Pregnancy When You Have Pre-Existing Health Problems | The Health Sessions

4 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Pregnancy Complications

1. Quit Smoking

If you smoke cigarettes, you should start quitting now before you even get pregnant. Studies show that babies born to smoking mothers tend to have low birth weight or are born too soon. These babies are also at a higher risk of congenital disabilities like cleft palate and cleft lip.

Smoking during pregnancy also increases the possibility of stillbirth or SIDS. Mothers who are exposed to secondhand smoke could also give birth to low-birth-weight babies.

2. Be Mindful of What You Eat

During pregnancy, you should make sure you’re eating a balanced diet. This is not only good for you but your unborn baby as well. The food and beverages you eat should be nourishing to your unborn baby as well. It helps to know the foods you should limit and avoid to avoid getting infections that could result in a high-risk pregnancy. Here’s an overview of the foods you should limit and avoid during pregnancy. 

Most importantly, avoid eating raw eggs and undercooked meat. It would be best if you also avoided contact and any exposure to cat litter and feces because they also put you at risk of toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis could cause severe illnesses and sometimes death of the fetus.

3. Take Your Supplements and Vitamins

Once you find out you’re pregnant, you should begin taking a prenatal vitamin daily with your doctor’s supervision. Prenatal vitamins are meant to help your body get all the necessary vitamins and nutrients required to nourish your unborn baby.

Take 400 mcg folic acid daily or as instructed by your doctor. You can also supplement folic acid by eating leafy greens, citrus fruits, beans, nuts, fortified breakfast cereals, as well as vitamin supplements.

How to Prepare for Pregnancy When You Have Pre-Existing Health Problems | The Health Sessions

4. Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight

It is crucial to move your body regularly if you are planning to get pregnant and to maintain a healthy weight before and during pregnancy. Overweight women could experience medical problems like diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy while being underweight could put you at risk of having a low birth weight baby.

With help from your doctor, you can work towards getting fit and strong enough to deliver a baby without severe complications. Remember, nobody can predict how your pregnancy or your baby’s health will be impacted by your pre-existing health problems, but with these tips you can feel a little more prepared.

To learn more about pregnancy and food, visit

Author Bio: Fay Irungu graduated with a Bachelors’s Degree in Linguistics and Literature from Chuka University. Ideally, she was going to be a teacher. It was the arrival of her daughter that led her to the world of Freelance Writing for She took her love for writing and experiences of being a new mother and found a home freelance writing about parenthood and the experiences that come with it. When she isn’t busy raising her daughter or writing, she loves to spend time with her dogs, traveling, poetry, music, and reading.

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