If you suffer from a persistent health problem, you may be wondering if you can have a successful pregnancy -- or if the medicine used to treat your condition will harm your unborn baby. Fortunately, many conditions can be treated safely, resulting in both a healthy mom and baby.
While many women with chronic conditions have healthy pregnancies, you still need to check in with your doctor regularly about the status of your health and that of your unborn baby. Asking questions is a good way to better understand your condition and can equip you with the information you'll need to make educated treatment choices. Here, we take a look at three chronic conditions.
About 2 percent of pregnant women have a thyroid disorder. Some develop the condition before pregnancy, while others experience thyroid problems for the first time during pregnancy or soon after delivery.
Shaped like a butterfly, the thyroid gland is located in your neck; it produces hormones that regulate your metabolism and control many of your body's organs. Problems arise when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys cells in the thyroid gland (creating an autoimmune disorder), which results in the thyroid's producing too much hormone (a condition known as hyperthyroidism), or too little (hypothyroidism).
Because untreated thyroid disorders can be harmful to both mother and baby, all conditions require prompt treatment in pregnancy. Babies of women with untreated hypothyroidism can have a higher risk of being born with neurological or developmental problems, including mental retardation. Women with this condition are often treated with hormone replacement pills.
Those with untreated hyperthyroidism also have an increased risk of complications, including a pregnancy-related form of high blood pressure called preeclampsia. If you have this condition, you'll be treated with medications that reduce your body's amount of thyroid hormone. Pregnant women with this illness should not be treated with radioactive iodine (a common treatment). This drug can damage your baby's thyroid gland, resulting in hypothyroidism.
The good news is that most medications used to treat thyroid disorders are considered safe in pregnancy. If you take medication for your condition, your healthcare provider will regularly measure the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood and make adjustments as the pregnancy progresses.
Though most healthcare providers don't routinely screen pregnant women for thyroid disorders, your doctor may recommend testing if you have a family history or another autoimmune disorder (such as diabetes), or if you experience any symptoms. Most conditions can be easily diagnosed with a simple blood test and can be treated safely, enabling you to have a healthy baby.