The basics of self-care during pregnancy
If you are planning to have a baby, preconception care is important. This involves assessing the woman's overall health and identifying and being aware of any problems that might affect the mother and baby. Preconception care should ideally begin a year before conception. Make an appointment with your doctor for a preconception medical assessment.
During your preconception medical assessment, you will be asked to give a detailed medical history of any chronic medical conditions. Because of your medical condition, you may need special care during pregnancy.
You will also be asked in detail regarding past pregnancies, complications such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, premature labour, premature birth, birth defects and pregnancy losses (miscarriages and stillbirths). Share any concerns or fears you may have with your doctor. If you had a problem in a past pregnancy, it does not necessarily mean the problem will recur. Most women go on to have normal pregnancies and healthy babies.
Inform your doctor of genetic disorders that run in your family. Based on your age, family history and ethnic group, genetic screening and counselling can help you find out your risk of having a child with a birth defect and give you the opportunity to discuss the options.
Let your doctor know if you have had previous vaccinations, especially German measles, hepatitis B and chickenpox. Vaccinations can prevent some infections and it is important to be vaccinated before becoming pregnant as some vaccines are not safe for you during pregnancy.
You will also be asked about the method of contraception you use. If you have been taking birth control pills, you will be advised to stop taking them two to three months before trying to conceive to allow your uterus to go through normal cycles before you become pregnant.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
If you are at risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you should inform your doctor as these can increase the risk of infertility and other pregnancy complications. Early treatment may help prevent the infection from being passed on to the unborn baby.
It is important to live a healthy lifestyle when you want to become pregnant. Discuss with your doctor your diet plan, exercise regime and how to manage your stress level. Avoid alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs as these substances can cause infertility. Your spouse's lifestyle too can also affect your pregnancy. Some studies have found that if your spouse smokes, drinks or uses drugs, it can lower his fertility by damaging his sperm. Living with someone who smokes also means that you are likely to breathe in harmful amounts of second-hand smoke.
Immunisation for Preventive Care
If you are planning to have a baby, talk to your doctor about immunisation. Check that you have the following vaccinations as these will help protect you and your unborn baby against the following diseases.
- Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine
- Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
- Hepatitis A vaccine
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Pneumococcal vaccine
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