A chronic illness is a condition, disease or disability that is genetic (although not always), or persistent and long-term, usually flaring up or developing over time.
Pregnancy comes with a number of physical and mental challenges, but if
you’re suffering from a chronic illness or condition, it can be even more
difficult. If you’ve been dealing with a chronic illness for quite some time
before becoming pregnant, you’ll already be familiar with the uncomfortableness
that comes with a disability or invisible illness. However, some people don’t
understand or aren’t aware of chronic illnesses and what sufferers experience
on a daily basis.
What is a chronic illness?
A chronic illness is a condition, disease or disability that is genetic
(although not always), or persistent and long-term, usually flaring up or
developing over time. The word chronic is used when it lasts for longer than
three months. Chronic illnesses come in a variety of forms and can be visible
or invisible. Examples of chronic illnesses:
Depending on your condition, chronic illness can be managed during
pregnancy by following your regular routine or changing it, as advised by your
doctor. However, you’ll want to check whether your regular medications are safe
while pregnant, as some can be harmful to a baby. Chronic illness is tough on
its own, so while pregnant it can alter the intensity of sickness, stress, and
even create new health concerns and needs.
Fatigue is said to be one of
the greatest challenges, as chronically ill people are often more tired than
those who aren’t chronically ill.
Nausea that usually arrives
during the first trimester may feel more intense for chronic illness sufferers
Existent pain and body aches
may intensify while pregnant
Asthma can affect pregnancy
if it is not controlled
Mental illness may progress
Before becoming pregnant, it’s vital to get these conditions under
control by seeing specialists and a GP who can put together a treatment plan.
chronic illness affect my baby?
Everyone’s situation is
different, but chronic illness can affect a baby and can be passed down to them
if the condition is genetic.
Uncontrolled diabetes may
increase the birthweight of a baby and increase the chances of an abnormality
Obesity can cause a premature birth and
increase your child’s chances of becoming obese later in life
Thalassemia is genetic, and if
both parents carry thalassemia their child is at risk of thalassemia major
which creates a number of health issues that can lead to death
Lupus isn’t genetic
Lyme disease may be inherited
Each condition is worth
researching before becoming pregnant
Children may be emotionally
impacted by their parents’ chronic condition (a parent missing out on important
events because of sickness)
Not every chronic condition
will affect a baby, but the wise choice is to get professional advice before
considering becoming pregnant.
are my options if I’m chronically ill and want to get pregnant / or are
If you suffer from a serious or
not so serious chronic condition, there are a few options to consider before
Blood tests before planning to
have a baby
If you’re pregnant, ultrasounds
look for signs of birth defects, including Down syndrome
First trimester screen can also
rule out things like Down syndrome, as it looks for problems with your baby’s
A quad marker screen will check
for problems with your baby’s brain and spinal cord – including spina bifida. A
quad marker screen will also detect a higher risk of genetic disorders (it does
not diagnose birth defects)
An Amniocentesis test will
actually diagnose a defect and detect genetic diseases
Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS)
is an alternative to Amniocentesis but can be done earlier in the pregnancy
A Non-Invasive Prenatal Test also detects whether your child is at risk
of birth defects or disorders and is performed by a simple blood test
pregnant and my chronic illness is making me unwell
If you’re chronically ill and aren’t feeling too well, you’ll need to
take care of yourself by:
Rescheduling plans if you’re
not feeling up to it (don’t feel guilty, as your health is a priority)
Ask for help if you need.
There’s nothing wrong with reaching out to friends and family
Embrace the positive moments.
Although it’s easier said than done, thinking positively and embracing any good
moments can help get through the toughest of days
Acceptance. It is hard as a
chronically ill person to accept that their life has changed, especially while
expecting a baby, but acceptance is another way to move forward
Don’t be hard on yourself. This
can be a challenge for sufferers who once had energy to handle more than their
Seeing doctors and specialists
regularly to maintain your condition
Seeing a therapist can also
help to talk about the emotional baggage that comes with chronic illness and
Be honest and open to others
about your condition and what you’re experiencing. It’s easy as a chronic
illness sufferer to feel ashamed and as though you have to hide your sickness,
which will only make you feel worse.
If you’re chronically ill and
you’re considering becoming pregnant, have recently fallen pregnant, or have
just had a child, you must first realise that you’re not alone. You may be
concerned whether you’ll be able to look after a baby while dealing with a
chronic illness, but it can be done with the right support from friends,
family, partners, nannies, doctors, specialists and a good therapist. Depending
on your condition and severity of illness, there are options available to
ensure that you’re pregnancy is managed, and to look out for any possible
genetic issues that can occur because of chronic illness.
Welcome to Babyinfo – the ultimate pregnancy and newborn information guide. We are here to help you find all the pregnancy and baby info you need to make the most beautiful experience of your life even better.
Our team is comprised of an amazing mix of experienced mothers, recently pregnant women, and editors with tremendous medical knowledge in the fields of gynaecology and childbirth.
Think of us as your friendly advisors, here to give you honest, easy to understand and authentic information. We are here to be your support at this crucial time in your life, when you need it the most.
Note: This website is in no way meant to replace doctors, hospitals, or other healthcare providers that may be utilized by current mothers or mothers-to-be. All mothers are advised to see a doctor for medical advice and the appropriate care before, during, and after pregnancy.