A pregnancy is either accidental or the couple have been trying for it and the attempt succeeds. Not many couples actually take steps to ensure that the prospective mother is READY for getting pregnant; READY here implies mother should be in optimum health.
Of course, one can’t plan for everything. No matter how well laid our plans, there can be all kinds of unexpected twists and turns on the journey to becoming a parent. It is important to prepare but it’s also good be open and to accept that things always won’t go as planned. But there are many things you can do to prepare and, hopefully, these tips will help you to do so.
Age: Consider your age. If you are in the 20 to 30 yrs bracket you are in a much more fertile period. Fertility decreases beyond 30 yrs & drastically so at 40 & above. With your age in mind get prepared for what could be in store for that age group.
Emotional readiness: Marital harmony is to be set up before conceiving. Stress related to anything, like financial problems, abuse if any, family violence should be sorted out. Emotionally you as the mother- to- be should be ready for the responsibility and for changes in life such as sharing time with the newborn & to forgo much of your “me” time and be prepared for job adjustments if working. If it is going to be a second or 3rd child, things to be considered are if you are ready for another pregnancy physically & mentally, whether you can afford another child even if husband is ready for it, if the previous child is sleeping through the night, if both mother & child are ready to stop nursing.
Health: Most importantly get your haemoglobin checked; Anemia is the commonest cause of low birth weight baby. Ensure your haemoglobin is within normal range before you embark on ‘serious trying’.
You should meet your family doctor to get treated for any illness like sexually transmitted diseases, Tuberculosis, HIV. Medical conditions like hypertension, Diabetes Mellitus, Thyroid problems, Epilepsy, and psychiatric problems should be well controlled especially with medicines that are safe to the foetus. Weight management to be considered and overweight, underweight conditions to be rectified. Habit of eating healthy food and avoiding salty, fried snacks and fast foods should be inculcated. It is good to avoiding bigger fish, which could cause mercury accumulation in the foetus, when consumed during pregnancy.
Habits & Addictions: One needs to quit smoking at least 3-6 months before conceiving (this will prevent colic, overactive toddlers & ADHD), alcohol & recreational drugs.
Genetic problems: Family history of twins, congenital defects, genetic disorders like blood disorders, like sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, bleeding disorder etc, should be discussed with your doctor. Genetic screening with the help of saliva & blood samples can be done if needed.
Gynaec visit: Gynaec problems which include fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis may affect conception or cause concern during pregnancy. Your doctor will also need to know if you have had cervical or uterine surgery or more than three previous miscarriages. Additional investigations for the complete work up could include pap smear, anatomical (scanning), endocrinological (hormonal assay), immunological (TORCH/ anti phospholipid profile) in women with previous miscarriages or still births and in elderly women.
Vaccines: A woman who has not had chickenpox or hepatitis B is usually advised to get these vaccines before conception. A TORCH test shows if the woman has had rubella infection. If negative, rubella vaccine is recommended to be given. Vaccines for whooping cough and flu (optional). Safe sex to prevent cytomegalovirus & sexually transmitted disease is advised.
Deficiency: Nutritional deficiency like anemia, Vit D deficiency should be preferably corrected before conceiving. Vitamin B12, multivitamin supplements in the preparatory days could prevent nausea & vomiting in pregnancy. Zinc (for fertility), Folic acid (at least 400 mcg) are essential for development of the foetus. A multivitamin & folic acid tablet could take care of these.
Dental problems if any to be attended to, because x rays are to be avoided during pregnancy.
If on oral contraceptive pills, they need to be stopped at least 3 months in advance.
If mother is Rh –ve, it should be discussed with the family doctor/ obstetrician.
Finally destressing yourself and to be in a healthy state of mind will go a long way in conception.