Women with diabetes are strongly advised to talk with their doctors before conceiving. Getting glucose levels in check is crucial to a healthy pregnancy, says the March of Dimes. Also, those who take oral medications to regulate blood sugar might need to switch to injections, as medication from some pills can pass the placenta and possibly cause birth defects. Birth defects are three times more common in babies whose mothers have diabetes, says the CDC. Controlling the disease limits that risk.
Hypothyroidism also needs special attention. Thyroid hormone requirements increase during pregnancy, and so the CDC recommends medication levels be adjusted to ensure proper neurological development.
Any on-going medical problem requires "tuning up" before conception. This is especially true of seizure disorders, asthma, and auto-immune conditions like lupus.
"Women taking antidepressants should never stop taking them without a doctor's recommendation," Dr. Chames says. Instead, talk with your physicians about the medication, the dosage, and what risk, if any, there is to the fetus. "Generally (antidepressants) are mostly safe," explains Dr. Chames. "If there is a link to birth defects, it is generally low. For a lot of women, when you consider the risks of the drug versus the benefits of the drug, we will say continue the medication."
Certain medications definitely need to be stopped during pregnancy, including warfarin (Coumadin), certain anti-epilepsy drugs, and the acne drug Accutane. All have been linked to birth defects.
Are You Ready?
Visiting your doctor for a preconception visit is the first step in mothering the child you are hoping to soon conceive. Other simple steps include getting into the daily habit of taking a multivitamin with folic acid. And if there is the slightest chance you might be pregnant, abstain from alcohol, smoking, and drug use. But most of all, ask questions. 'The more educated a woman is, the better her chances of having a healthy pregnancy," says Dr. Chames.