Nurturing another being in your womb and eventually giving birth is a miracle of life. In humans, the gestation period is an average of 9 months, during which a cluster of cells multiply and evolve into a full baby in the mother’s uterus. It is thus normal to wonder how the mother’s body and mind endures all the changes and struggles of a growing baby inside of her. If you are planning to extend your family, it may be important to consider if you are physically, emotionally and mentally ready to take on the new role. This is where preconception care comes in with an opportunity for would-be parents to improve their overall health before they start trying for their baby.
Most commonly asked questions to a gynaecologist
In my decade long experience as a gynaecologist, most women planning pregnancy ask more or less the same list of questions. These may also be some of your concerns:
- What should I eat if I am planning a pregnancy?
- What should I avoid while trying to get pregnant?
- When is the right time to try to get pregnant?
- What tests should I do before planning a pregnancy?
- How will I get to know when I am pregnant?
- When to see a doctor if I have difficulty in getting pregnant?
Let me answer them one by one.
1# What should I eat if I am planning a pregnancy?
A healthy and balanced diet is very important. A big chunk of your calories should come from fruits, green leafy vegetables, legumes, lean protein, dairy products and whole grains.
- Stay away from unpasteurized milk, uncooked meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables.
- Conception is easier with a healthy weight to height ratio (BMI-20-25). This also helps in carrying the pregnancy forward along with decreasing chances of getting diabetes, hypertension and difficult delivery.
- Exercises like running, swimming and also yoga are beneficial and also help in boosting happy hormones and reducing stress.
- FOLIC ACID is a must for every woman who plans to conceive. I recommend you start taking Folic acid tablets when you start trying. This vitamin is essential for the brain and spinal cord development of the baby.
2# What should I avoid while trying to get pregnant?
Smoking, I would say quit smoking anyway, but definitely, if you are planning a baby. Smoking in pregnancy can be associated with miscarriage, growth abnormalities of the baby and premature delivery.
- Alcohol consumption in the first three months of pregnancy can lead to miscarriage. It can also lead to growth defects in the baby. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders as a result of alcohol consumption by the mother can cause learning and developmental dysfunctions in the baby.
- Stay away from pets litter. During pregnancy, avoid cleaning cat and dog litter tray because it may be a source of transmission of a dangerous bug, Toxoplasma, which can cause miscarriage or complications during early pregnancy.
- Do not self-medicate. Over the counter medications are a no for those pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Some medicines may be harmful to the baby. Consult a doctor before consuming them.
3# When is the right time to try to get pregnant?
The first thing you need while trying to get pregnant is to know your menstrual cycle. Start recording start and end days of your periods. The number of days between the start of one period and the start of the next month menses is the length of your cycle. This understanding of your cycle length will help you predict your fertile days. Fertile days are generally from day10 to day18 of your cycle (considering a regular 30 days cycle). Remember, Day1 is the first day of your period. Fertile days are the days you are most likely to conceive, and you should definitely try these days. This is the predicted time of ovulation, and if the released egg meets with the sperm, a successful conception can result. You and your partner should establish contact every alternate day in this green period.
A caveat here is that this rule will not apply if you have irregular or longer cycles. I recommend that you consult a gynaecologist to understand your fertile days.
4# What tests should I do before planning a pregnancy?
Before you take the road to pregnancy, I recommend a general health check. This would include your blood group test, thyroid and sugar levels. Some specific tests that are advised as well, include- Rubella immune status and Thalassemia. Rubella is a viral infection that can cause disastrous defects in the baby. It is therefore essential to test your immunity towards the infection and if not go for Rubella vaccination.
Thalassemia is a condition where blood formation is hampered. It is important to check if you are a carrier of the gene that can be transferred to the baby.
5# How will I get to know when I am pregnant?
Usually, the first sign of pregnancy will be your missed period. Here again, your cycle tracking will be of use. If you miss your periods, do a urine pregnancy test! There are simple home tests available in the market. It is recommended that your use the first urine in the morning for the test. Two pink lines will confirm a positive test result. However, doctors will trust a blood test to confirm the level of pregnancy hormone (serum β hCG). Besides a missed period, some early signs of pregnancy can include and increased body temperature, nausea, lethargy, more than usual urination and mood swings. But a blood test is always the sure shot way to confirm pregnancy.
6# When to see a doctor in my pregnancy journey?
Consultation with a gynaecologist is a must if you have a chronic condition to ensure that you are in the best of health to embark a pregnancy. Shifting to baby-friendly medications is also necessary. 80% of couples will be able to get pregnant in 12 months of trying. If you are taking longer than 12 months to conceive, or have a previous history of miscarriage, plan an early visit to the gynaecologist.
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