Planning to have a healthy baby – Pregnancy Planning and Pre-Conception Care is important if you are planning to have a healthy baby. Make healthier choices for your child – 11 quick tips !
Today, with the means of contraception easily available and the number of working women on the increase, a pregnancy is often planned and not accidental. If you are a diabetic, your condition will need to be assessed before your pregnancy to avoid complications later.
To conceive, all contraception should be stopped. If you are on the pill, you should go off it, and switch to the condom and spermicidal pessaries for two to three months, so that all hormones are out of your system by the time you conceive.
Biologically it is best to have your baby in your 20s. Risks increase in the under 20s and over-40s, and slightly in the over-30s.
If there is a history of epilepsy or severe myopia in your or your husband’s family, lyou may like to consult a genetic counselor. Genetic counseling is a way of discovering whether your child may be born with an inherited disorder. It is available in most large hospitals.
The counsellor will ask your and your husband’s family history. A blood test may be done to get more information. If there is a problem, the counsellor will help you find out if you may pass it on.
You will also be told if tests available that can detect the disorder in the fetus during pregnancy.
A few months before you plan to conceive, have a blood test taken to check if you are anaemic. If you get your anaemia under control, it will go a long way towards producing a healthy baby. So eat foods rich in iron.
Eating wisely is important both for you and your husband. A nutritious diet, less stress, less alcohol and cigarettes, less lead exhaust from vehicles, less caffeine from tea, coffee and cola drinks, no indiscriminate use of drugs, are all factors that will contribute to a strong and healthy baby.
If you and your husband can check these factors before you conceive, it should give a strong foundation to your baby. You should check these factors three to six months before conception, especially approximately fifteen days before the next period is expected, because the pregnancy starts at that time.
Always check these factors throughout pregnancy. A man’s diet, smoking and drinking habits, etc., can harm his sperms. It is being increasingly proved that health and nutritional status of both the man and the woman before conception is very important.
A couple which takes care of all these factors have done their best to produce a healthy baby. It may require a slight alteration of lifestyle, but it will give you a healthier baby and mother. A healthier mother will be able to cope more easily with the care of the baby later.
During pregnancy keep up your normal activities but do not overwork. Avoid lifting heavy things, as it can lead to a miscarriage. Regular exercise will help you keep fit. Normal activities will help keep your muscles toned up, making your delivery easy.
When you become pregnant, you must consult an Obstetrician or Obstetrics OPD in a hospital or a medical centre. Often the months have passed by the time a woman goes for consultation.
Any potentially dangerous situation will be controlled through preventive measures. For instance, a woman with a Rhesus-negative blood group will be given an anti-D immunoglobin injection after the birth of her first baby so that her second delivery will be problem-free.
A Rhesus-negative woman, who has not had an anti-D injection after her first delivery or after an abortion preceding her first delivery, may have a baby who will need a complete blood transfusion at birth.
A woman with swollen feet, hands, and face will also need to follow simple medical advice so that other complications do not crop us. Blood pressure and weight will also be checked at antenatal visits.
The doctor will ask about your previous pregnancies, miscarriages, abortions, about when you had your last period, what contraception you have been using, what illnesses you have suffered from, etc.
Until the seventh month you will be called for a check-up once a month. Until the ninth month you will be called every fifteen days and then every week until you go into labour. The doctor will prescribe certain tests.
A blood test will be taken to find out the haemoglobin content of the blood. Haemoglobin is the red colouring matter of the blood that carries life-giving oxygen to all parts of the mother’s body, including the baby.
A woman who is low in haemoglobin is said to be anaemic and will be prescribed iron tablets.
Your blood group will also be noted, in case you need a blood transfusion in an emergency. The blood will be checked to see if it is Rhesus-negative or Rhesus-positive.
The Venereal Disease Research Lab test is a blood test that checks for the presence of any sexually transmitted disease or venereal disease. If, for instance, a woman is found to have syphilis, she can give birth to a deformed child.
Both the woman and her husband should have the VDRL test. Even if it turns out that one of them has the disease, both will receive a course of antibiotic injections to protect themselves and the baby. It is important that both partners co-operate with the doctor.
There may be other instances when the doctor would prescribe a blood test. Medical supervision is therefore essential.
The Alpha-Feto-Protein test is a specialized blood test that can reveal if there are any major defects in the baby. The mother’s blood is checked for alpha-feto-protein which is a protein that is produced by the baby’s liver and is passed to the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta.
It is most accurate between 16 and 18 weeks of pregnancy. If the test suggests that the baby is not normal, it should be repeated. If the second test give similar results the fetus also should be checked by an ultrasound scan and amniocentesis.
A urine test is a routine in pregnancy. The urine will be analysed for infection, and for glucose which will show up if there is diabetes. Ketones may show up if you are vomiting a lot or not eating enough.
In late pregnancy, albumin or protein in the urine will indicate ‘pre-eclampsia’.
Internal Vaginal Examination
An internal examination is done at the start of pregnancy and at its end, and sometimes during its course. At the start of pregnancy it could be done to confirm the pregnancy and exclude any possibility of abnormalities of the pelvis, vagina, or cervix.
At the end of pregnancy it could be done to check the readiness of the cervix or its ripeness. It does not harm the baby.
If you are tense during the examination it will help if you breath out slowly through the mouth while it is being carried out, and relax your pelvic floor as when you are passing urine.
When you go for a check-up the size and shape of your abdomen will be felt by the doctor after making you lie down. The doctor will examine your abdomen for its shape and size, for abdominal scars and for the movements of the fetus.
By palpitating your abdomen with one or both hands the doctor can gain a lot of information about the size of the baby, in what position the baby is lying and the presentation of its head.
The height of the growing uterus also gives an idea of growth of the baby. At three months the uterus can be left int eh lower abdomen, rising out of the pelvis.
At five and a half months the uterus reaches the height of the navel. At seven and a half months the uterus will be halfway between the naval and the breastbone, or the region below the breasts.
In the ninth month the uterus will reach the area below the breasts.
Ultrasound was first used during World War II to detect submarines. In this sound waves are directed to the fetus inside the uterus, and as they bounce off the baby’s bones and tissues, a picture of the fetus appears on a TV screen.
The picture may not make much sense to you, but the expert working the machine will be able to interpret it. It is really quite simple. Even a novice would be able to differentiate the dark areas, which are fluid-filled, from the white areas which are solid.
When you go for an ultrasound scan, you must have a full bladder. You will be made to lie down next to the machine and an oily substance will be spread over your abdomen. A small flat device will be moved slowly all over your abdomen during the scan.
It is a fairly new technology that has begun to be widely used in obstetrics in India, only in the late 70s or early 80s. It does not appear to harm the mother or the baby in any way but there is no evidence that it is completely safe either.
It took forty years to discover the harmful effects of X-rays, which was the only technique of getting some information of the baby in the uterus before the ultrasound scan.
As a diagnostic tool the ultrasound is invaluable, since it can give the doctor vital information on twin pregnancies, babies who are small, the exact position of the fetus and the placenta in pregnancy, the condition of the placenta, the age of the fetus, the estimated date of delivery, and so on.
It also helps detect gallstones, etc. So scans should be done in a pregnancy only if a doctor thinks it is advisable for investigative purposes. As a routine procedure it is avoidable.
Also, if an adult is constantly exposed to high frequency sounds it can cause some deafness. No such things have happened to babies who were exposed to ultrasound as fetuses but no one knows if there are any side effects or not. Only time can tell. It is best used sparingly.
This is a procedure where a small amount of fluid is taken out from the pregnant mother’s abdomen (amniotic sac) to test for chromosomal and other abnormalities. It is not a routine test.
Under local anesthesia a needle is inserted into the mother’s abdomen and a little bit of amniotic fluid is withdrawn. This is done along with an ultrasound, so that the placenta and the fetus are not disturbed by the needle.
The fluid which contains fetal cells can then be analysed for the detection of abnormalities of the nervous system, mental handicaps, including Mongolism or Down’s Syndrome inherited disorders, etc.
Anti-tetanus injections are given routinely to all pregnant women. An anti-tetanus injection taken by the mother in preganancy protects both the mother and the baby from tetanus infection for up to several months after the birth. It is usually given in two doses in the 26th week and six weeks later.
All these pregnancy planning and pre-conception care tips are important if you are planning to have a healthy baby.