For parents-to-be and their loved ones, pregnancy is a wonderful, almost magical time, filled with joy and anticipation. For expecting women with chronic conditions though, it can also bring anxiety and discomfort.
But Dr Agnes Tisane, a gynaecologist with Melomed Private Hospitals, says this stress can be avoided. And with the right professional medical advice and interventions, pregnancy and delivery can proceed normally, and any risks to mother and baby minimised.
With February being Reproductive Awareness, Dr Tisane offers this timely advice: “The more you know about the biological processes in pregnancy, and the wondrous, mostly invisible transformation of mom-to-be and unborn child, the more amazed we are.
“But not all pregnancies are without any risk, even in the healthiest of women, a chronic illness can reduce the chances of a risk-free pregnancy further. So, if you’re planning to start a family and have a chronic condition like hypertension or diabetes, suffer from a skin ailment like psoriasis, or are obese, it’s important to get professional medical advice early.
“This means that you and your partner immediately benefit from the support and care of a team of specialists, and access to services like pre-conception counselling, assessment of medication, and monitoring of the chronic condition as the pregnancy progresses.”
This is important as some chronic conditions’ symptoms may become aggravated during pregnancy: Women with diabetes, for example, must take particular care with nutrition, says Dr Tisane.
Women who suffer from IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis may also be more prone to complications around fertility and pregnancy. A condition like preeclampsia – hypertension which develops after the fifth month of pregnancy – only affects about two percent of pregnancies but is serious and must be treated as such.
“That’s why it’s important to get sober, scientific findings from a qualified professional rather than being unnecessarily concerned. Sometimes an anxious parent-to-be or family member, friend or colleague might search on the internet for information about complications in pregnancy resulting from a chronic condition. They might find a frightening, worst-case scenario that causes unnecessary alarm. Rather see a professional early.”
That, says Dr Tisane, also ensures that the parents-to-be have access to services like Melomed’s popular Melobabes programme, with a variety of benefits, like antenatal and postnatal classes. It also includes a pregnancy journal, and a hamper of products for the first few days following the birth.