Unless unwanted, pregnancy is an exciting and important milestone in a woman’s life. It is generally considered the fulfillment of a woman’s purpose in life. Pregnancy involves much more than the initial excitement. A number of factors need to be considered before conceiving if you want to have a healthy pregnancy, safe delivery and a healthy baby. It is, therefore, important to start planning early for pregnancy, especially because you want to carry a pregnancy when you are healthy both physically and mentally.
Planning prepares you physically and psychologically for the changes your body will experience during pregnancy and for your new life as a mother. Planning for a pregnancy means deciding the right time to conceive, and also planning for the nine months ahead. A pregnancy plan includes a programme addressing the needs of the mother-to-be like nutrition status, weight, age, treatment of any existing health condition before getting pregnant and so on. Start planning as soon as you feel that the time is right to get a baby. The sooner you start the more you will enjoy your pregnancy. A baby’s organs begin to form soon after conception, long before you may realise you are pregnant. As this is a critical phase of development, if you plan your pregnancy you are more likely to give birth to a healthy baby as you will be taking great care of yourself, eating the right foods and ensuring you have a positive lifestyle, long before pregnancy occurs. There are no foolproof methods to ensure a healthy baby, but there are things you can do to improve your chances of a good outcome.
Start preparing for pregnancy one to three months before trying to conceive, especially if you have any existing medical conditions that might affect your ability to conceive, have a healthy pregnancy, or give birth to a healthy baby. A visit to the doctor will determine the health of your reproductive organs, your fertility status, your metabolism rate, and the condition of your heart, blood, lungs, urine, and hormones. It is also advisable to have your partner undergo thorough checkup and get healthy for the pregnancy to ensure production of healthy sperms.
Eat a balanced diet with the right amount of calories to enable you carry out your daily activities. Your diet should contain the six main dietary nutrients – water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. The healthier you are before you conceive, the more chances you have of a healthy pregnancy. Healthy eating will also help you maintain a healthy body weight.
Whether you are planning to get pregnant or not, physical fitness is important for your health. Staying active and fit before conceiving and also throughout your pregnancy is vital. It lowers your risk of developing complications during delivery. Keeping fit does not necessarily mean working out in a gym. You can achieve the same results by doing simple activities like jogging, walking or swimming. Exercising leads to all round improved health and fitness, and by extension, a healthier pregnancy. Physical activity in appropriate amounts can decrease the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some forms of cancer and osteoporosis.
Consider whether you can afford to support a child from birth through to adulthood, rather than simply meet the cost of the maternity fee and baby clothes and feeds. Maintaining a child can be expensive and you need to plan well in advance for the expenses of pregnancy, childbirth, as well as the child’s long-term financial needs.
Decide which hospital or doctor will provide your prenatal care and where you will have your delivery. An established relationship with your caregiver is an important part of your support system and a trusted source of information throughout your pregnancy. Choose a maternity hospital and birth setting that will accommodate all your needs, especially if you have a medical condition that could complicate delivery, or you are on certain medication.
Alcohol, drugs and tobacco can be harmful to your health and can interfere with your pregnancy or even reduce your chances of getting pregnant. Your health before pregnancy will affect the health of your baby and you should therefore consider quitting drinking, smoking and use of drugs before trying to conceive. Foetal exposure to these substances can result in serious health problems for the unborn child including deformities and low birth weight. Avoid self-medication with over-the-counter drugs as these could also have serious effects. If you are on prescription drugs, discuss this with your doctor. There may be need to adjust the dose or change the prescription during pregnancy.
Have a thorough dental checkup before you get pregnant. Brush and floss your teeth regularly to prevent oral infections that can lead to poor maternal nutrition due to pain or discomfort while eating. Studies show that gum disease and oral infections can increase your risk of premature birth and low birth weight from either preterm labour or premature rupture of the membranes.
The emotional demands of parenthood are enormous. You and your partner must be prepared to commit to communicating and connecting with the baby and accept the constant demands that will follow delivery. You are emotionally ready to have a baby if you are having it for the right reasons, with the right partner and at the right time. It is therefore important to ensure your relationship is strong and supportive and that you are both ready for the added responsibilities.
There is no evidence to suggest that stress can prevent you from becoming pregnant. However, stress can depress your immune system, raise your blood pressure and alter your hormonal functions. It is important that you avoid stress during pregnancy. Try to identify the possible causes of your stress and avoid them. When you are stressed, your body experiences hormonal imbalances that lead to mood swings, headaches, and high acidity, all of which could be harmful to the pregnancy.