Pregnancy is an exciting time for any woman. If you are pregnant or preparing to get pregnant, it is essential to take special care of yourself so you and your baby will be healthy. Taking care before pregnancy and during pregnancy can improve the chances of a smooth pregnancy and having a healthy baby.
Pre-pregnancy care (Preconception care) is the care taken before getting pregnant.
It focuses on improving mother’s health before getting pregnant to increase the chances of having a healthy baby (fetus). The purpose of preconception care is to assess any potential risks to you and your baby and to treat any medical conditions you may have before conceiving.
Men also have an equal importance in preconception care, as they make up half of the genetic material required to develop the baby. Men also require preconception care to improve sperm health that increases the chance of conception and a healthy baby.
Taking healthy diet and supplements, regular exercise and maintaining healthy weight are recommended for men as a part of pre-pregnancy care.
Pregnancy care (Prenatal care) is the care that a woman gets during pregnancy. Pregnancy care should be initiated as soon as possible after pregnancy is suspected. Pregnancy care is important for keeping both the mother and baby (fetus) healthy. Lack of prenatal care increases the chance of low-birth weight babies and infant death.
Visit to the doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor when you are planning for pregnancy. During your appointment, your doctor performs physical examination and asks you about your medical history (conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure and heart diseases, etc. and medications), reproductive history, vaccination status, diet, lifestyle and other habits. Getting the right advice and following the instructions of your doctor help you to get ready for a healthy conception and baby.
You should discuss with your physician about all your concerns regarding pregnancy and other health related issues. Your physician may order certain blood tests (full blood parameters, iron and ferritin levels), and urine tests (for sugar, protein, infection) to check your health condition.
Discuss with your physician about any medical conditions that run in your family, especially genetic problems, in order to take precaution and reduce the risk of genetic defects. In case if you are a suitable candidate your physician may recommend you for genetic counseling.
Your physician checks if you have any problem that affects the baby health such as rubella (German measles) infection, sexual transmitted diseases, and other problems such as hepatitis B and anemia.
During pregnancy, your physician examines you for the presence of diabetes (gestational diabetes), blood pressure (pre-eclampsia), seizures (eclampsia), and asymptomatic bacteriuria, etc. Your physician may also check the fetus by an ultrasound examination to assess the gestational age and any fetal abnormalities.
Your obstetrician may advise you to practice various measures to ensure better health and a safe pregnancy such as the following:
- Maintain healthy and hygienic habits
- Eat a healthy, nutrient rich, well-balanced diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Take nutritional supplements
- Folic acidis a universal supplement of vitamin B group required for healthy growth and development of a baby in the initial weeks of life. Taking folic acid reduces the birth defects such as spina bifida (spinal cord abnormality). 400-800mg/day of folic acid is recommended at least one month before pregnancy and for the first three months after getting pregnant.
- Supplementation of vitamin D (10 micrograms/day) is recommended in pregnant women.
- Other vitamin/mineral supplements containing sufficient amounts of iron, zinc, and calcium are advised.
- Take vaccinations for Rubella (German measles), Varicella (chicken pox) and hepatitis B at least one to six months before pregnancy.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Being overweight or obese increases the risk of medical complications such as elevated blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
- Being underweight decreases the chances of becoming pregnant, and having a low birth baby and problems during labour.
- Regular exercisehelps you to maintain an ideal weight and is beneficial to you and your baby’s health.
- Keep your medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and epilepsy under control.
- Inform your physician regarding your present or past medical conditions.
- Avoid caffeine, smoking, drinking alcohol, use of habit-forming drugs, certain medications, exposure to gases, chemicals, heavy metals, and radiations (X-ray).
- Keep your home and workplace environment safe and comfortable.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Improve your mental and emotional health by avoiding stress and practicing relaxation techniques.