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Keywords:

  • pregnancy;
  • chronic illness;
  • stress;
  • qualitative

ABSTRACT

Objective

To describe the experience of pregnancy with a chronic illness.

Design

Qualitative description.

Setting

Tertiary Medical Center, Northeast United States.

Participants

A purposive sample of eight pregnant women with various chronic conditions.

Methods

Telephone interviews.

Results

The participants described their chronic illnesses as deviations from normality and their pregnancies brought them closer to normality. They described pregnancy as a balancing act between the fantasy of being normal and the reality of having a chronic disease. At the same time, women acknowledged the blessings and burdens of physical changes and intense vigilance. Participants also described emotional demands related to the need to be vigilant, additional physiological alternations, and information overload.

Conclusion

Pregnancy may alter chronic illness, increase stress, and create new health care needs for women. In turn, increased stress associated with chronic illness may alter perinatal outcomes. Pregnant women with chronic illness may benefit from interventions aimed at helping them balance the blessings and burdens associated with the symptoms of pregnancy.