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PREGNANCY PLANNING

Planning to become pregnant?

If you are planning to have a baby, it is advisable to be well informed and prepared to provide the best care for yourself and your baby. Most pregnancies invariably go smoothly. Common sense and scientific evidence tell us a healthy body is the best environment to achieve implantation of the fetus and carry it to term.

Getting pregnant

Most normal, fertile couples achieve a pregnancy within the first 12 months of trying. It can take up to 6 months after stopping the contraceptive pill for normal ovulation to resume. Women over 35 or who smoke can take twice as long to conceive. Intercourse 3 to 4 times a week at ovulation time maximises the chances of conception.

Nutrition

It is important to have a well-balanced and nutritionally sound diet. Women should aim for an ideal weight before conception. A high-fibre, low-fat diet that is rich in vitamins is the basis of good health. Eat freshly cooked or freshly prepared food. Drink lots of water (preferably filtered). Iodine intake is important, and supplements should be considered in addition to eating fish regularly.

Folic acid before pregnancy

Folic acid reduces the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. Those at high risk include those previously affected and those with a family history, diabetes or taking anti-epileptic medication, but folic acid supplements are advisable for all pregnant women. Those at risk should take 5 mg daily at least 1 month before pregnancy and ideally for 12 weeks. All other women should have 0.5 mg tablets daily 4 weeks before conception, continuing for 3 months after.

Exercise

Sensible, regular, non-contact exercise is important. Avoid high-level exercise and getting overheated. A healthy weight range assists fertility and reduces pregnancy risk.

Serious infections

Most conceptions have ideal outcomes but the fetus can be affected by certain infections, especially in the early stages of pregnancy, so it is wise to try to reduce the risk of contracting these infections while trying to become pregnant and throughout the pregnancy.

These infections include rubella, varicella, hepatitis B, syphilis, toxoplasmosis, listeria, cytomegalovirus and HIV. It is advisable to have blood tests for rubella, varicella, syphilis, hepatitis B and HIV.

Vaccination

Rubella (German measles) acquired during pregnancy is a big concern. Most women these days have been vaccinated and are probably immune but this immunity can wear off.

It is advisable to be tested before becoming pregnant and given the vaccine if not immune. It is also advisable not to become pregnant within 3 months of being vaccinated.

Varicella (chickenpox) is best avoided and the ...

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