By K W Warburton, The Reluctant Spoonie
Preparing for pregnancy is key for anyone with a chronic illness or multiple chronic illnesses. You may need to change your treatment plan such as stopping or changing medications. For many people, this may make pregnancy impossible.
Personally, I have several chronic illnesses that make pregnancy a bit more challenging. I have PCOS and endometriosis which can cause fertility problems. I also take medications for my other chronic illnesses which cannot be taken whilst trying to conceive.
Below I have outlined the steps I have taken to prepare for pregnancy as a person with multiple chronic illnesses.
1. Medical Considerations
The main way that I have prepared for pregnancy with my chronic illnesses is by swapping to a pregnancy-safe treatment plan. To do this, I asked my doctors during my regular review appointments whether it was safe for me to get pregnant. some said yes and others said no.
The reason why it was unsafe for me to become pregnant at that time was because of the medication that I was taking. As a person with the ability to get pregnant, whenever I am offered a new medication, I always ask if it is safe to take whilst pregnant/ trying to conceive. Even if you are not yet at the stage of trying to conceive, this is good to know for future reference. I knew that I needed to change two of my medications before I could safely begin trying to conceive.
In 2018, I requested to change my POTS treatment to a pregnancy-safe one. It took me around a year to become stable on my new pregnancy-safe treatment. From my experience of living with POTS, any sort of change is difficult for me to adjust to, therefore I wanted to be stable on my new treatment before trying to conceive.
With regards to my potential fertility issues from my endometriosis and PCOS, I still do not know if I can conceive without medical assistance. I have low progesterone and I do not ovulate every cycle. If I do ovulate, it is very late in the cycle which is not optimum for conception. I will cover this in more depth when I discuss my experiences of trying to conceive.
Presently, I am on a pregnancy-safe treatment plan for all my chronic illnesses and have the support of all my doctors to proceed. If you are thinking of becoming pregnant and you have a chronic illness, I would suggest talking to your doctor before you start trying to conceive to ensure that you have a safe pregnancy.
2. COVID considerations
Like many people, I have decided to pause my plan for pregnancy until after the pandemic. Being pregnant puts you at a higher risk of COVID complications. Plus, the stress of the pandemic has made my cycles irregular. It is likely that I will not resume trying to conceive until the start of 2022.
3. How do you know if you’re ready?
Personally, I have felt ‘ready’ to become a parent since I was 25. This was when I obtained stable housing for the first time and I was in a committed long-term relationship. Other factors included having a stable treatment for my chronic illnesses and being financially stable for the first time i.e. actually saving money instead of living off savings.
There are other questions that you can ask yourself such as How would you parent a disabled/ autistic/ gay child? How would you handle an emergency such as choking or a seizure?
You cannot choose your child. If you do not want to be the parent of an LGBTQIA+, disabled or autistic child then you should reconsider if you are ready to become a parent.
Talk to your partner about your preferred parenting style. A ‘united front’ makes for a consistent set of parents and an easier upbringing. How were you raised as a child? What mistakes did your parents make? How would you handle those situations if you were the parent? If you have unresolved childhood trauma, you may wish to talk this through with a therapist before you become a parent yourself.
4. Thoughts on being a disabled parent
I do not worry about being a disabled parent. Questions regarding this usually come from a place of ableism.
5. Alternative routes to becoming a parent
As pregnancy may not be possible for me, we are also considering these alternative routes to becoming parents.
- IVF and fertility treatment