Having a baby is one of life’s most exciting and fulfilling experiences. But it can be stressful as well, especially when it comes to matters of health. Every mother-to-be worries about having a healthy newborn following a smooth, healthy pregnancy.
Numerous medical studies on pregnancy all draw the same important conclusion: Being in good health before becoming pregnant is the best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy and a healthy newborn.
Whether you’re thinking about having your first child or planning a new addition to your family, there’s no time like the present to get started on a pre-conception health plan.
Pre-conception health care focuses on achieving optimal health for a woman before she becomes pregnant, while also monitoring the health of the father-to-be. The goals of a pre-conception health plan include screenings for existing and potential health problems, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and making conception easier and safer.
Planning for pregnancy should begin at least three months before conception. Your doctor will first assess your current health status, taking into account your personal and family health histories, and any prior experiences with pregnancy, fertility and birth control. Screening and diagnostic tests check for potential areas of concern. These include Pap smear, STD (sexually transmitted disease) tests, blood and urine analysis, and a physical examination including pelvic exam and blood pressure check.
If you smoke or drink alcohol, behavior modification will be an important part of your pre-conception plan. Smoking causes numerous pregnancy problems, including poor male and female fertility, and low birth weight and other complications in the newborn. Limiting alcohol consumption helps prevent serious complications like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and other birth defects.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is also important to ensuring a healthy pregnancy. Underweight women may need to gain a few pounds, as being underweight increases the risk of the body stopping ovulation when body fat levels fall too low. Women who are overweight are at greater risk of fertility complications. But weight loss should be gradual; crash dieting can cause ovulation problems and deplete the body of vital nutrients.
Too much stress can make it harder to conceive; your doctor can recommend changes to your daily life to help reduce your stress.
Most health experts agree that it’s generally safe to continue exercising while you’re trying to conceive, so long as your workout is moderate in intensity. Swimming and walking are among the safest exercises.
Planning for pregnancy is also the time for you and your partner to discuss concerns each of you may have. It’s perfectly normal to worry about how becoming pregnant may affect your relationship, your financial situation or your career. Many couples worry about potential genetic health risks or about their own ability to handle the emotional stresses that arise during pregnancy.
Discussing these concerns together (or with a qualified counselor) can help resolve important issues before your new baby arrives.
HEALTH MATTERS FOR ME
Men can play a positive role in supporting their female partners in preparing for pregnancy.
Maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and limiting alcohol consumption are all important factors in reproductive health. You should also inform your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medications you’re taking, as these can affect your fertility.
If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Smoking not only affects a man’s fertility; second-hand smoke can also damage the health of your partner and your unborn baby.
Your doctor can fully assess potential genetic risks with complete family histories from both partners and results from specific diagnostic tests. STD screenings for men may also be recommended to ensure that any existing problems are not passed along to mother and child. Finally, men who work with chemicals or other toxins need to be especially vigilant to reduce the risk of exposure to their partners.
Pre-conception health planning requires a team effort, but it’s worth it. Managing current health issues early can make pregnancy and childbirth a happier and healthier experience for the whole family.
Keys to Good Health for Mothers-to-be
Folic Acid Folic acid has been shown to lower the risk of certain birth defects. Take 400 mcg (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day for the 3 months before conception, and for 3 months after. Your doctor may recommend a higher dosage if you have a family history of neural tube defects, if you’ve previously given birth to a baby with a neural tube defect, or if you’re taking certain medications for diabetes or epilepsy.
Be sure your vaccinations are up-to-date.
Monitor medications Inform your doctor about any over-the-counter or prescription medicines you’re currently taking, including vitamins and dietary or herbal supplements.
Avoid toxins Limit your exposure to toxic and infectious substances and chemicals, cat feces and rodent feces.
Bumrungrad’s Pre-Conception Health Packages
Being healthy before becoming pregnant is the best way to give your newborn a healthy start. Bumrungrad International offers comprehensive pre-conception health packages for both women and men.
The package consists of up to 15 specific diagnostic and screening tests (including rubella, HIV, and haemoglobin type testing) plus chest X-rays. The package is priced at Baht 4,900 for women and Baht 4,500 for men.
Additional tests, including vitamin B12 value and cervical cancer screening, are also available at discounted prices when taken together with the pre-conception package.
For more information, call the Bumrungrad International hotline: + 66 (0) 2667 1000.