Giving Baby a Healthy Start
For most women, prenatal care begins at about six weeks – often about the time the mother-to-be discovers the wonderful news. However, what many women don’t realize is that the most crucial stages of fetal development have already taken place. A woman with an unhealthy lifestyle or medical problems may suffer the consequences, along with her unborn baby.
That is why the physicians such at Health Central Women’s Care are practicing a concept called preconceptual care. Making changes in your life prior to conception can result in a safer pregnancy and a healthier baby.
Virtually from the first moments of pregnancy, a woman’s body is hard at work forming the new life inside her. Facial features, brain structure, and arms and legs may be starting to form by the time she realizes with certainty that “something’s different” with her body.
The first step to preconceptual care is to discuss your pregnancy plans with your obstetrician, ideally during your annual exam. This gives you plenty of time to review your current health status, as well as any family history of medical problems. Your physician can also advise how to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
A complete review of current prescription and over-the-counter medications will determine what adjustments need to be made prior to conception. Some medications will not harm the fetus, but others may. Women taking medications for seizures, diabetes or high blood pressure can be given an alternative medication that is much safer. It is important to treat the mother for her condition, but at the same time make sure her medication does not interfere with normal fetal development.
Your OB/GYN will also want to see your immunization record to see if you are immune to rubella and chicken pox. If not, vaccination is strongly recommended at least three months prior to becoming pregnant. Acquiring either of these illnesses during pregnancy could harm both you and your baby.
To aid in the prevention of neural tube and spinal defects, your physician will recommend a multivitamin that contains folic acid. It is especially important to start taking it prior to pregnancy because neural and spinal development take place in the first two to four weeks after conception, when women usually aren’t even aware they are pregnant.
Another issue your physician will want to discuss involves your general lifestyle. Do you smoke? Do you use alcohol? Do you use illicit drugs such as cocaine or marijuana? If so, your physician will strongly recommend stopping these activities for the sake of your unborn child’s health. Babies whose mothers practice this type of unhealthy lifestyle have a greater risk of being born prematurely or with birth defects or mental deficiencies than those whose mothers do not.
Now that you’re caring for two bodies instead of one, make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet and getting exercise. You only need to eat an additional 300 calories a day to adequately nourish yourself and your baby. Watching this intake during pregnancy will help control weight gain, and possibly prevent diabetes. Continuing your prepregnancy exercise program throughout your pregnancy can provide you with more endurance during labor and the final pushing stage.
When planning a pregnancy, remember to consider your physician. You need to feel comfortable with not only your physician, but the office staff as well. All the physicians at Health Central Women’s Care are board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology. Our nurse practitioners are experienced labor and delivery nurses and are also a valuable asset to our staff.
While good preconception care cannot always guarantee a good pregnancy outcome, it can certainly improve the odds of a normal pregnancy and a healthy, bouncing bundle of joy.