You are newly married and thinking of the next big decision. Have you been trying to conceive for some years now?  Do you have children already and have decided to get one more? Children are a blessing and can make a relationship more fulfilling. To have a smooth pregnancy and healthy babies, it is better to plan pregnancies and have preconception care. There are many things to consider before getting pregnant. Some of these are

Finances

When considering pregnancy, consider the financial cost of pregnancy and childcare. Are you ready? Do you have what it takes to pay for the cost of pregnancy and the immediate care of yourself and the baby?  

Lifestyle

Pregnant Woman Diet Cartoon Flat Poster Template. Healthy and Unhealthy Food Choice Illustration. Vitamins and Folic Rich Vegetables, Nuts, Oatmeal, Fish. Dangerous Beverages to Avoid

Good lifestyle choices improve fertility and the health of the future baby.

You need to balance your diet. Increase your fruit and vegetable intake, drink more water, cut down on coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol. Exercise to keep fit. Going into pregnancy obese is fraught with many life threatening complications both for you and your baby, so if your BMI is sitting above 30, you need to lose some weight.

Exposure to smoke can be detrimental to a baby in the womb. If you are smoking, you need to stop. You may not be smoking directly, but if your partner or anyone you spend time with is smoking, you need to make some changes to reduce your exposure to second-hand smoke. Also reduce your exposure to smoke from wood and charcoal fires.

Folic acid before pregnancy

Folic acid supplementation is absolutely important. You should ideally have this at least 3 months before conception.

Vaccinations and screening

 You need to be up-to-date with all your vaccinations prior to pregnancy. If you have not had your cervical cancer screening prior to pregnancy, please do. If you have a high risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection, you should get screened prior to pregnancy, and treated, if necessary.

Chronic Medical Conditions

If you have chronic medical conditions like diabetes, sickle cell disease, asthma or heart disease, or you are on any long-term medications, you need to discuss planning a pregnancy with your doctor before you embark on this journey. If you have suffered from anxiety, depression or psychosis, you need to talk to a doctor before getting pregnant. Some women are advised not to get pregnant because of certain health issues.  Some may need genetic counseling prior to pregnancy as they may transmit heritable conditions to their babies.

Birth spacing

If you have already had a child, give yourself at least 24 months between pregnancies to help your body recover before another pregnancy.

Pregnancy is beautiful if done safely. Finances, lifestyle, existing illnesses as well as birth intervals should all be considered while deciding whether or not, and when to get pregnant. Preconception planning and care help the mother to have a smooth pregnancy journey and a good outcome. 

Written by Frederick AK Oduro, Obstetrician Gynaecologist.

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