Pregnancy is a major event in a woman's life. With modern medical knowledge it is now possible to take wise decisions about your and your partner's health and lifestyle before planning a pregnancy, which will eventually affect the outcome of your pregnancy. Sitting down with your doctor to discuss your health, diet and environment helps to make changes, if required, to these factors.
A few of the factors which affect the mother and the baby are:
A woman's reproductive age, theoretically, is between 15-45 years. But getting pregnant at the extremes of this range can cause problems for the mother and child. Very young women are not fully prepared for a baby, physically as well as emotionally. Teenage pregnancies for this reason can cause great harm, especially for the mother.
On the other hand, pregnancies in women older than 35 years are associated with an increased incidence of congenital abnormalities, like Down's syndrome, in babies.
A woman's health during her pregnancy is a major factor which will decide the outcome of her pregnancy. A healthy woman will have a healthy baby. With modern medicine most diseases can be cured or controlled easily. Getting a check-up done before planning a pregnancy might help you identify any disease you may have. Bringing these problems under control before planning a pregnancy will help you have an uneventful pregnancy.
A few problems which can adversely affect you and your baby are:
Most medications you take during pregnancy can cross over to the baby and cause harm to your baby. Thus, you should always consult your doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy.
During pregnancy the mother is more vulnerable to infections. These infections can harm not only the baby, but also the mother. Some infections during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects or illnesses in the baby.
STDs (sexually transmitted diseases, like Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, Genital herpes, Syphilis, HIV) are especially dangerous. They not only can affect your ability to become pregnant but can also infect and harm your baby.
Talk to your doctor if you need any vaccinations before you plan your pregnancy, especially rubella (German measles). Your doctor might also advise you to get a vaccination for tetanus during your pregnancy.
Your previous obstetric history might affect your present pregnancy. If you have had a miscarriage or previous baby with a birth defect, your doctor may suggest studies to find out the cause before planning the next pregnancy.
Hereditary diseases, though rare, are a major cause of preventable disability and death. These diseases run in families and if one of your family members has some such disease, genetic counselling and testing can help prevent this disease in your child. A child can get such a disease from either her father or mother. Before you plan your pregnancy your doctor may advise you and your partner to undergo some tests to determine if either of you have such a disease.
Some of these diseases are:
So if you, your partner or someone in your family has a history of such a disease be sure to tell your doctor.
You might need to make certain changes to your lifestyle before planning a pregnancy. The things you might need to consider are:
Stress can affect you and your baby's health.
Your nutritional requirements increase as your pregnancy advances. Talk to your doctor about a well-balanced diet, which will provide adequate energy, proteins, vitamins and minerals for you and your growing baby.
Tobacco, alcohol and drugs harm the growing baby in many ways. You should abstain from these before and throughout your pregnancy, and preferably forever.
Pregnancy, on the whole, is an enjoyable experience. A little care of yourself will go a long way in making yours and your baby's life healthy and fun. We wish you all the best!
Dr. Rekha Khandelwal M.S.
Vardaan Hospital is a New Delhi based multi-speciality hospital