Preparation for a healthy pregnancy and childbirth should ideally begin before you get pregnant. There are a number of things you can do before conceiving to have a healthy baby. Here are a few guidelines to keep troubles at bay during your pregnancy period.
Take prenatal vitamins
The first thing to do if you are planning to conceive is to take a daily dose of prenatal vitamins. The folic acid found in these vitamins help the foetus’ brain and spine to develop well without any defects. It might also be able to prevent other birth defects like stomach problems, cleft palate and deformities in hands and legs.
Attain a healthy weight
Your weight can affect the chances of your pregnancy. A healthy weight is desirable when it comes to fertility. Make a goal to achieve a healthy weight before you try to get pregnant. Being overweight can decrease your chances of getting pregnant and even pave the way for gestational diabetes. Being too thin can also lead to infertility.
Find out the consequences of medical conditions and medications on pregnancy
It is best to talk to your doctor before conceiving if you are having any medications for medical conditions like depression, diabetes or epilepsy. A woman whose blood sugar levels are not under control before pregnancy has a higher risk of having a child with heart problems. Certain medications used for depression and epilepsy can cause birth defects in infants. Consult your doctor for getting safe alternate medications and keep yourself and your baby protected.
Give up smoking
Smoking lowers a woman’s fertility level by affecting the ovaries and decreasing the level of estrogen. By smoking you expose your baby to harmful chemicals like nicotine and carbon monoxide which can result in Down syndrome or other birth defects. Smoking during pregnancy can also cause low birth weight in babies, lead to preterm deliveries and even delivery deaths.
Consider preconception or genetic counselling
Couples planning for a baby can opt for a preconception or genetic counselling if needed. Genetic counseling helps you to understand and be aware of any genetic disorders in your families which your child may inherit. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis or PGD is the latest type of in vitro fertilization which can enable such couples to have a healthy child. This procedure involves removing one cell from an eight-cell embryo and testing it for any genetic abnormalities. Only those embryos with no obvious problems are implanted into the woman's uterus. But the success of PGD is not 100 percent guaranteed as the embryos inserted can still have undetected genetic disorders because of a rare condition called chromosomal mosaicism.
Another test which has the potential to detect Down syndrome in an unborn child is done in the first trimester of pregnancy. This is done with the help of an ultrasound and blood test. The blood test measures levels of certain proteins and hormones that could indicate Down syndrome, while the ultrasound assesses the thickness of the child’s neck, called the nuchal translucency. By learning about this in the first trimester the couple will get more privacy and time to make a good decision. On deciding to continue with the pregnancy they will get more time to accept a child with Down syndrome.