Pre-Existing Health Problems

Pre-Existing Health Problems

Pre-existing medical conditions can have an impact on how a pregnancy proceeds. Fortunately, with the cooperation of a doctor, most of the adverse impacts these conditions can have on you and the baby can be mitigated with proper treatment.

Cooperation is the key to making sure any existing medical conditions you may have won’t cause serious complications in your pregnancy. Before becoming pregnant, you should consult with a doctor about any pre-existing health issues you feel might cause problems as your pregnancy progresses. You should also make sure that all of your routine health screenings are up-to-date before you try to conceive such as pap smears, mammograms, diabetes and hypertension screening. While you’re at it, get your partner screened, too. You may also want to undergo genetic testing to ferret out inherited conditions such as sickle-cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, Cooley’s anemia, Tay-Sachs, celiac disease, Canavan disease, Gaucher disease or Niemann-Pick disease and the likelihood that your child may inherit these disorders. The following is a list of some pre-existing health issues  which can cause complications during pregnancy and what can be done about them:

  • Diabetes is an unfortunately common health problem in the United States, impacting more than 16 million adults and children. The disease arises when your pancreas doesn’t produce  enough insulin or develops a resistance to it. In pregnancy, some otherwise healthy pregnant women even develop gestational diabetes –  a temporary condition of glucose intolerance during pregnancy.
  • Diabetes during pregnancy can make your baby grow larger which could make child birth difficult and may result in damage to the baby. Also, diabetes during pregnancy could cause your baby to be hypoglycaemic or have breathing or heart problems. Because of the potential dangers, managing diabetes during pregnancy is vital. Pregnant diabetic women may require multiple daily doses of insulin, a review of the medications they’re taking to control blood glucose and careful monitoring for ketoacidosis and other diabetes-related illnesses.
  • Heart disease impacts an estimated 70 million Americans and can cause some serious complications in pregnancy, as carrying a child can put stress on the heart and circulatory system. Women with congenital heart disease run an increased risk of bearing children with heart defects, but by and large, heart problems in pregnant women pose more risk to the health of the mother than the child. Women with heart problems should work closely with their doctors to monitor any manifestation of  anemia and fluid retention. Because pregnant women are susceptible to bacterial infection, if you have a history of heart disease, you would want your doctors to monitor you for endocarditis.
  • Believe it or not, about one in a thousand pregnancies occur while the mother has cancer. Fighting cancer can take a lot out of a woman’s health and having a baby while fighting cancer is not advised. However, if you become pregnant while fighting cancer or your cancer is not discovered until after you are pregnant, working closely with medical professionals and following their advice to the letter is vital to the survival of you and your baby. Cancer treatments may be varied because of pregnancy. For example, chemotherapy is risky during the first trimester of pregnancy because of the toxic chemicals it introduces to your body and  to your baby. Chemotherapy during the first trimester may cause birth defects. During the the second and third trimesters it may cause low birth weights. Other cancer therapies such as radiation and surgery also carry risks. Radiation can potentially cause organ abnormalities, developmental disabilities or slow fetal growth. Surgery is less risky, depending on where the surgery is performed.
  • All treatments carry an element of risk but letting the cancer go untreated is even more risky. Be sure that you and your doctor choose the treatment path that you are most comfortable with and has the least chance of long-term damage to you and your child.
  • Asthma is a respiratory ailment that causes the main air passages of the lungs to tighten, producing mucus and causing the airways to narrow even more. During pregnancy, asthma can reduce oxygen flow to the fetus which may result in slow fetal growth and possible brain damage. If you suffer from asthma and become pregnant, you may want to use a peak flow meter- a device that allows you to gauge variations in your breathing throughout an ordinary day. Using a peak flow meter can help you identify asthma triggers. Pregnancy itself can impact your asthma as many women report worsening of the ailment during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. If you have severe asthma attacks during pregnancy, you’ll likely be treated with oxygen.

These are just a few pre-existing health issues that may adversely impact a pregnancy but as you can see, most issues can be mitigated if your doctor is aware of the problems and proper steps are taken. In addition to talking to your doctor about any pre-existing medical conditions you may have, it’s also important to talk to your doctor about any medications you may be taking, even ones for psychological issues such as depression. Remember, your doctors can’t help you unless they have all information possible available to them for evaluation and consideration.




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