BENGALURU: Throughout history, mothers have been revered, worshipped and given a cult-like status and yet they have also been reviled and demonised depending on the era and the country they lived in. The modern mother has a more complex role than ever before. She dons several hats now – mother, wife, provider, boss at work, keeper of sanity at home and, of course, juggler par excellence of all these and more jobs. A planned pregnancy is safer than an unplanned one. Despite this, four in 10 pregnancies are unplanned. Here are a few things you ought to know before you become pregnant:
Visit your doctor before you plan a pregnancy
Pregnancy is not a disease so why should I see a doctor before I become pregnant – True, pregnancy is not a disease, but optimal outcomes for the mother and the baby can only be achieved by taking the best possible care before, during and after the pregnancy. Your doctor will take a detailed history regarding your health and any past pregnancies. He or she will enquire about any diseases in both families.
Medical and hereditary conditions
Some of the medical conditions that can affect pregnancy are Hypothyroidism (problems with the thyroid gland), Epilepsy, Diabetes and Hypertension. It is important that pre-existing diseases are well controlled, and tests are done to confirm that you are healthy. A detailed personal, family and past pregnancy history will help screen for hereditary and genetic conditions for which you and your partner may need genetic counselling.
Folic Acid is vital for the healthy development of the baby’s nervous system. It helps prevent serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord such as Anencephaly and Spina bifida in about 70% of women who take it. This has to be taken as a daily supplement of 400 mcg for at least three months before you fall pregnant. If the pregnancy is unplanned, take it as soon as possible and continue till the 12th week of pregnancy. You may also need Vitamin D supplementation, check with your doctor.
Diet and exercise
A healthy diet and exercise are very important during pregnancy. Start by eating healthy and plan a balanced diet for yourself.
Regular exercise will improve your health, reduce your risk of having gestational diabetes in the pregnancy, reduce stress, and help you cope better with the pregnancy and labour.
Smoking during pregnancy is a definite no. It can cause miscarriages, preterm birth, low birth weight and stillbirth. Babies whose parents smoke are at a higher risk of chest infections, cough and Sudden Infant Death syndrome.
Alcohol is to be avoided completely during pregnancy. Psycho-active substance use must be discontinued while trying for a pregnancy and throughout the pregnancy.
Pregnancy itself is rather overwhelming. Not only because there are so many physical and hormonal changes, but also because there seems to be a complete emotional makeover. If you go through periods of anxiety and depression, you need to talk to your doctor about this. If you are already on medication your doctor will tell you if it is safe to continue the same or change to a safer drug.
The author is an MBBS, MRCOG (London), FRCOG (London), FACOG (USA) Director, Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist- Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore