Pregnancy Planning (cont.)
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Pregnancy Planning Facts
- What is pregnancy planning and why is it important?
- What are pregnancy symptoms?
- What is a pregnancy calculator and calendar?
- Who effective are home pregnancy tests?
- How can diet and nutrition affect early pregnancy?
- How does alcohol affect pregnancy?
- How do high blood pressure and diabetes affect pregnancy?
- What are examples of commonly-used medications that are dangerous in pregnancy?
- How do kidney and heart disease affect pregnancy?
- What infections affect pregnancy?
- What inherited (genetic) diseases can play a role in pregnancy planning?
- Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?
- Can I travel by air during pregnancy?
- Can I have intercourse during pregnancy?
- How soon after stopping birth control can I become pregnant?
- How do we maximize our chances of becoming pregnant?
- Can I do something to help my chances of conceiving a boy or a girl?
- Early Pregnancy Symptoms - Slideshow
- Take the Pregnancy Myths and Facts Quiz!
- Stages of Pregnancy - Slideshow
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
How does alcohol affect pregnancy?
Alcohol has been implicated in infertility, early miscarriage, as well as in birth defects. The amount of alcohol consumption necessary to cause these problems is not known, and varies among women. Some women can drink excessively and have normal infants. Others consume considerably less alcohol but still give birth to babies with cognitive disabilities and/or other birth defects. It is generally believed that the greater the amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy, the greater the risk of pregnancy-related problems and birth defects.
It is recommended that pregnant women avoid all consumption of alcohol. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders are a group of conditions reflecting the possible effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol. The FASDs include fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), alcohol-related birth defects (ARBD), and alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disabilities (ARND). Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is the extreme end of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and is a leading cause of cognitive disabilities.
How do high blood pressure and diabetes affect pregnancy?
Elevated blood pressure (hypertension) that is present before pregnancy can interfere with growth of the fetus and increase the risk of fetal death. Therefore, controlling blood pressure with carefully chosen blood pressure medications is important during pregnancy and before conception.
In addition, underlying hypertension can increase the risk for a condition called preeclampsia, a potentially very dangerous complication of pregnancy. It is sometimes difficult for doctors to distinguish between high blood pressure alone and high blood pressure occurring from preeclampsia. For those reasons, and given the risk of birth defects from many of the blood pressure medications, women with high blood pressure who become pregnant should be followed very carefully by a medical expert who is familiar with this type of situation. Ideally, medication would be switched to a relatively safe medication before the woman even becomes pregnant.
Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels during early pregnancy can lead to miscarriages and birth defects. Therefore, controlling diabetes is important for a good pregnancy outcome, and the blood sugar should ideally be controlled before becoming pregnant. It is important to consider that control of blood sugar during pregnancy is important, but control prior to pregnancy may be just as important.
Oral diabetes medications may be dangerous to the fetus, but insulin is not dangerous to the fetus. Insulin is the key treatment for diabetes during pregnancy. Not only is insulin safe to the baby and mother, but it also helps prevent the complications that the baby could have suffered from the mother's sugar being uncontrolled. Insulin is usually substituted for pills as soon as a woman with diabetes is considering pregnancy. The ideal time to control blood sugar is before pregnancy, because control of sugar levels even in early pregnancy (when the mother does not yet know she is pregnant) is important for the developing baby's health.
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