Get ready. You do not want to be that woman who “finds” herself pregnant eight weeks into the pregnancy when their doctor points out that the anti-malarial drugs did not in fact fail, that they had no malaria in the first place, and that their nausea and vomiting is here to stay until they are done with their first trimester. Before you get pregnant, do yourself and your unborn (or is it un-conceived?) child a favor, take time and get healthy. This is the crucial part you will play in ensuring you give birth to a healthy baby with no birth defects, at term.
Here are the things you need to do before embarking on the too serious, too important baby making process;
1. GET SCREENED FOR INFECTIONS
To have a healthy baby, you need to be healthy;
-Get your partner and yourself screened for infections such as HIV, hepatitis, rubella, HPV, and other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea.
-If any of this infection is found present, then it will be absolutely necessary to get treated before you conceive.
Mother to child transmission occurs with infections like HIV, while rubella is known to cause hearing and visual defects!
Folic acid –
There is a vivid picture ingrained in my memory of a young girl seated on a wheel-chair asking her mother, “why didn’t you take the damn folate!?”
Most women start their folate and iron supplements when they have been pregnant for a long while, others never start at all!
All intending mothers should start taking folic acid supplements 8-12 weeks before conception
Supplementation can be in the form of tablets available as over the counter drugs sold in pharmacies or in diet
Foods rich in folic acid are dried beans, peas, nuts, avocado, lentils, spinach, citrus fruits.( given a woman could become pregnant even by accident, all women should always make sure their plates are over-flowing with these food stuff.
Deficient folic acid leads to spina bifida and other neural tube defects
Women who have had children with spina-bifida, diabetic women, women taking anti-epileptic drugs and those with a BMI of 35 and above MUST take supplements of folic acid before getting pregnant to reduce chances o getting malformed babies.
Many pregnant women suffer anemia due to low iron levels. Anemia could be detrimental to both baby and mother and therefore should be prevented
Pre-conception, women should increase their iron in diet.
Sources- spinach, liver, egg-yolk, beans.
Where it is difficult to take it in food, then women should take supplement tablets
Other important vitamins should be supplemented like vitamins C, and B.
3. RISK REDUCTION
Chronically ill women require the approval of their doctors before becoming pregnant (ideally)
Diabetic, hypertensive, epileptic, HIV positive lupus, heart failure and other chronically ill patients should discuss with their physicians before becoming pregnant.
Such patient should discuss their drugs and their possible side- effects on their unborn babies.
They should discuss possible pregnancy outcomes, (women with lupus are likelier to suffer miscarriages,) the effect of pregnancy on their conditions (pregnancy will worsen heart failure) and the effect of their conditions on pregnancy.
Where necessary, their doctors will stop some o their drugs and re-introduce new ones, or will advise against getting pregnant if at all pregnancy will be too risky for the mother.
4. BLOOD GROUPING
Both the father and mother-to-be should have their blood grouped.
This allows detection of rhesus incompatible parents early, and a frame-work for intervention is drawn.
Smoking- intending mothers should quit first hand and second hand smoking if they intend to have children weighing any more than one kilogram (you do want a baby who is heavier than a kilo of sugar right?
Alcohol and other alcoholic drinks, wine included!
Alcohol consumption and pregnancy should not be mentioned in the same sentence (except how I did it there, hehe).
Alcohol has untoward effects to an un born child including but not limited to, an abnormal facial appearance, low intelligence, and behavior problems. You don’t want to do this to your child.
Quit even before you get pregnant, and have your partner quit in solidarity with you (this is just to reduce temptations, apparently, a drunk sperm doesn’t cause fetal, alcohol syndrome, a drunk other does)
Pregnancy is no easy feat, and you need to be prepared psychologically so you can puke gracefully, grow fat and not give a damn, and look at the stretch marks on your tummy and chuckle.
Prepare the finances, for some reason, pregnant women get sick more often, eat more, and need new clothes every month
All women need pre-conception care.