Pregnancy can be a rewarding and a life changing experience. At the same time, the thought of pregnancy can be daunting and challenging. Before you get too stressed out with all the overwhelming information, here are some basic care tips on how you can prepare for your pregnancy. Preparing yourself well and reading ahead on what to expect will empower you to make informed decisions before, during and after your pregnancy.
If you and/or your partner are considering having a baby, paying a visit to your General Practitioner(GP) or an Obstetrician-Gynecologist 3-6 months prior to conceiving will be immensely beneficial.
Some of the things that need your attention and warrant discussions with your doctors:
Assessing your physical and mental health
Being aware of your own physical and mental health can help you to condition and improve them for a more healthy outcome of pregnancy.
Body Weight - Women who are underweight or overweight are more at risk of developing complications during pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy body weight can help with healthy development of the baby during pregnancy and even after birth.
Pre-existing health conditions like Diabetes, Hypertension, Epilepsy and psychiatric illnesses, Immunity related diseases like Lupus, heart and kidney diseases should be fully assessed and brought well under control before getting into pregnancy.
Medications - Understand which medications are safe and which are harmful for pregnancy. If you have long standing or recent prescriptions, they can be suitably modified with your doctor’s consultation.
Mental Health - If you have worries, fears, anxiety and stress related to pregnancy or otherwise, address those feelings. Discuss with your partner and your doctor to effectively manage these feelings and reach a mental state that is calm, positive and ready for pregnancy.
Vaccination - You may need shots for Tetanus, Measles, Rubella, Seasonal Flu, etc. They offer protection not only for yourself but you can transfer antibodies against these infections to your baby during pregnancy and protect them too.
Diet Modifications - A balanced diet contains plenty of fruits, vegetables and starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, protein, fibre and dairy foods. Modifications in diet are aimed at increasing your body’s Iron, Vitamins and Calcium stores. These become essential to the baby's healthy development at various stages in pregnancy.
Avoid foods like undercooked meat, unpasteurized milk, some soft cheeses, liver products, shark, swordfish, and marlin. These foods can cause infections or poisoning, which in turn can affect the baby early on in the pregnancy.
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly and cook all meats thoroughly.
Reduce caffeine intake to under 200mg/day (equivalent to 2 mugs of instant coffee)
Folic acid supplements are needed that should be continued up to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy when the baby’s spine and brain are forming.
Vegetarians and vegans may have low levels of Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D and will require to take supplements for it. Low Vitamin B12 is often associated with infertility, while Vitamin D deficiency can cause pain and softening of your bones during pregnancy and can also cause seizures and bone diseases in babies after childbirth.
Stop recreational drugs, alcohol and smoking completely to avoid complications in the pregnancy. They can harm baby growth and cause problems like miscarriage, placental abnormalities, premature delivery, low weight baby, structural abnormalities in the baby, etc.
Sports and Exercise - Pick up daily exercises that can be continued to an extent during pregnancy. Avoid contact sports which may cause unexpected abdominal trauma.
Avoid physically demanding work, especially jobs with prolonged periods of standing.
Practice mindfulness, meditation or yoga to take care of your Mental health. Take a break from your routine and go on a quick vacation, or have a spa day and other joyful activities with your partner or friends. When your body is less stressed, you may improve your chances of pregnancy.
Start planning on your finances and spend only on the necessary. Having a baby can be costly and sorting out your resources early will help you ease into parenthood.
It is important to have proper care during pregnancy. Look for a team of care givers and a pregnancy center that you will visit for the duration of your pregnancy. This can include your GP, an Obstetrician, a certified nurse midwife and sometimes even a doula. Your GP whom you may have a long standing relation with and understands your needs better would be able to recommend them, or you can also check with your friends and families for references.
If there is a known history of genetic disorders like Cystic fibrosis, Sickle cell disease etc. in your family, you may also need Genetic counselling. It aims to help you and your family understand the possibilities of passing on the disease to the next generation, and how to manage its implications.
Now, keep calm, kickstart your new healthy habits, and go have that baby!