For many women, getting pregnant is not easy. Especially when a woman has pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, PCOS, metabolic syndrome, or obesity, getting pregnant can become an obstacle course. But women should not lose hope. Knowing how to manage health conditions can lead to a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Diabetes and pregnancy: blood sugar control is key
Women who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes should aim to get their blood glucose levels under control before getting pregnant. If blood sugar is too high during pregnancy, it can put the baby at risk for birth defects or birth complications. This risk is highest during the first trimester. Because many women don’t know they are pregnant until around 2-4 weeks of gestation, controlling blood glucose prior to pregnancy is particularly important.
A woman’s strategies for managing her diabetes may also change during pregnancy. The exercise or eating habits that kept blood sugar levels in check before pregnancy may not be as effective during pregnancy. Women who are considering getting pregnant should consult with a doctor about how their diabetes can affect having a baby.
How can I eliminate PCOS barriers to pregnancy?
Women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) produce higher levels of male hormones, which can make it more difficult to get pregnant. However, women with PCOS can take some steps to increase their chances of getting pregnant. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and managing weight will all boost fertility. In fact, studies have shown that in overweight women, just a 5-10% reduction in bodyweight significantly increases a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
Women with PCOS who do become pregnant will need to work closely with their healthcare provider to manage their blood sugar. When a woman with PCOS becomes pregnant, she is at increased risk for gestational diabetes and birth complications. Following a doctor’s treatment plan will increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
What if I have a number of health conditions?
Metabolic syndrome is not a single health condition but is a cluster of risk factors that increases risk of heart disease, stroke, and other diseases. Some of these risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, a large waist circumference, and high cholesterol.
Studies have shown that women with metabolic syndrome have a 2-4 times higher risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Women with metabolic syndrome should work to improve their health prior to pregnancy. This can be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional, and will likely include weight loss, exercise, and diet changes.
Obesity and pregnancy: work closely with your doctor
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or higher. In many cases, obese women will have challenges getting pregnant, because obesity interferes with ovulation. Pregnant women who are obese are at higher risk of pregnancy and birth complications.
However, working closely with a healthcare professional to monitor health can help to ensure a healthier pregnancy. A medical professional will check for gestational diabetes, changes to fetal ultrasounds, and signs of sleep apnea.
Pregnancy obstacles are not insurmountable
Though certain health conditions like diabetes, PCOS, metabolic syndrome, and obesity can all make pregnancy daunting, women should not lose hope. There are treatment options and lifestyle changes that help. Women who are facing any pregnancy obstacles should start early conversations with their doctor about how to have a healthy pregnancy and, ultimately, a healthy baby.