By Dr. John Yam Pei Yuan
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist
MBBS (S'pore), MRCOG (UK), MMed (O&G), FAMS (S'pore), FICS (USA)
Before embarking on pregnancy, you and your partner have to be mentally & physically prepared. There will be an additional member to your family & you to be ready for this.
Things to do
Pregnancy can be demanding - placing a strain on your body. It is important that you prepare in advance so that you will have a satisfying experience & outcome. Ideally, preparations should begin even before you conceive. Folic acid supplements should be started about one month before conception to minimize the risk of brain, spine & nervous system defects in the fetus. If you are taking any medication, always consult your doctor as some drugs can affect your baby.
Be sure to avoid radiation (in the form of X-rays) too. Bear in mind that conception occurs around two to three weeks from your last menstrual period, so that is the time that baby starts developing.
Eat sensibly & have a well-balanced diet. Try to maintain a reasonable weight, keeping your body mass index in the healthy range. Women who are underweight or overweight at the start of pregnancy tend to develop specific problems during pregnancy & childbirth. Exercise moderately & avoid high impact sports.
When you are about to embark on pregnancy, it is a good idea to see your doctor to get a medical screen. Your doctor may screen you for various medical conditions, like high blood pressure & thalassemia, an inherited blood condition that can affect the fetus. Certain tests can also be done, including: blood tests to check your immunity to some conditions. (like toxoplasmosis, hepatitis & rubella), test for syphilis & a PAP smear.
In the event that you need vaccination, you will probably have to wait for a period of time before conceiving. For example, if you need to be immunized against rubella, doctors advise that you refrain from getting pregnant for about 3 months after the vaccination.
On occasion, women who go for pre-pregnancy checks discover that they have certain underlying medical conditions which were previously unnoticed as they did not cause any symptoms, like high blood pressure or diabetes. It is important that they get the appropriate treatment for these conditions before starting pregnancy as pregnancy may be be affected if there conditions are not well-controlled.
Things not to do
Cigarette smoking causes problems such as miscarriage, placental bleeding, premature labour & decreased fetal weight. Babies born to mothers who smoke also suffer from delayed development. If you are a smoker, it is important that you cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke, or, better still, stop completely. Equally dangerous is second hand smoke – if your partner smokes, avoid inhaling the smoke.
Alcohol, too, causes problems in pregnancy, including fetal abnormalities. You should avoid hard liquor during pregnancy & minimize your intake of soft liquor. Of course, it is best that you avoid alcohol together.