Have you and your spouse finally decided to expand your family from just the two of you, to three? Start planning your pregnancy and take the right steps prior to getting pregnant to ensure that the pregnancy will be a healthy one, with reduced chances of risks and complications.
Taking the plunge
Before you and your spouse decide to get pregnant, it is first important to consider these risk factors that could cause complications in your pregnancy and during labour:
- Smoking leads to increased risk of miscarriage, bleeding, reduced birth weight, premature birth, increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and stillbirth.
- Alcohol could cause foetal alcohol syndrome, including symptoms such as low birth weight, and birth defects such as heart, skeletal, kidney, ears and eyes malfunction.
- Caffeine affects the heart rate of your growing foetus and his awake time (growth occurs when foetuses sleep).
- Lack of good nutrition, which is crucial for a developing foetus; some vitamins are particularly important, ie folic acid, as lack of this B vitamin can cause birth defects, such as neural tube defects. Neural tube defects include spina bifida where the baby’s spine does not form properly or anencephaly, in which the top part of the skull and brain fail to form properly.
- Age. Women after 35 are at an increased risk of medical problems like high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, chromosomal abnormalities in the foetus, and stillbirth.
- Weight. Overweight or obese women are at a higher chance of having large babies, causing a difficult delivery. These women may also develop gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia. Women who are underweight however, are more likely to have small babies who are underweight as well.
Infections that could harm your baby
Certain infections could harm you and your baby during pregnancy, therefore it is important that your vaccinations are up-to-date. Vaccinations help protect your body from infections, and you can pass this protection on to your baby. This will help keep him safe during his first few months until he gets his own vaccinations.
Most vaccinations are not safe to be taken during pregnancy, and instead should be taken as soon as you decide to get pregnant. These include:
|Flu||Protects you and your baby against both the seasonal flu and H1N1. Getting the flu during pregnancy could cause complications like pneumonia.|
|HPV (human papillomavirus)||Protects against subtypes of HPV that could cause cervical changes and most of cervical cancer.|
|MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)||A rubella infection during pregnancy could result in foetal death, or congenital rubella syndrome.|
|Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)||Prevents tetanus, a disease that affects the nerves and muscles and which can be fatal when left untreated.|
|Varicella (chickenpox)||Getting chickenpox during pregnancy could cause birth defects in your baby.|
Ensure a healthy pregnancy, protect your child
Caring for your child starts even before he is conceived. Changing your lifestyle habits, eg quit smoking as well as reducing/quitting your intake of caffeine will help you have a healthy pregnancy. Pay a visit to your doctor to get a check up and ensure that you are fit and healthy to conceive.
Good nutrition is always important, and a balanced and varied diet is essential for the proper development of your baby. Taking vital vitamins, such as folic acid, is needed to prevent neural tube and spinal cord defects. Being overweight or obese could increase your chances of having complications during pregnancy and labour. Thus, moderate exercises would help prevent excessive weight gain and also keep you active. Swimming, walking and yoga are favourites among pregnant women.
Finally, always pay regular visits to your doctor after conceiving. Regular monitoring will help ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby!