For many couples, having a healthy baby and starting a family of their own is the dream. Pregnancy may seem like a natural expectation from any healthy couple but in today’s fast-paced world, planning is needed to ensure that everything goes smoothly. By taking the time to plan for a healthy pregnancy, you and your partner can help increase the chances of a successful outcome.
The first few weeks of pregnancy are critical for the development of the baby. During this time, the placenta and embryo are attached to the uterine wall. The following health and lifestyle problems can significantly affect the baby’s development:
A serious birth defect known as spina bifida can occur when a baby is born with an open spine. To help prevent this condition, many foods such as bread, bagels, and breakfast cereal are fortified with folic acid, which has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of this birth defect.
Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can lead to a number of health complications for both the mother and child, including premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects, and low-birth-weight babies.
Pregnant women should consult with their physician prior to taking any over-the-counter or prescription drugs as it may pose a health risk to the unborn child. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, aspirin compounds, and ibuprofen can cause a decrease in the amount of amniotic fluid and closure of the ductus arteriosa, an essential blood vessel in the baby.
Pregnant women who have periodontal infections and gum illness are at a much higher risk of pre-term delivery. In fact, their risk is increased by up to eight times. Additionally, babies born to mothers with these infections are twice as likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, and three times more likely to require hospitalization beyond seven days.
Michael Greene, MD, Director of Obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston stated that obesity is a pressing concern for women of childbearing age. He went on to say that “obesity is associated with several complications, since it significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing high blood sugar and diabetes-either just before they get pregnant or during their pregnancy.”
Unborn babies are at a high risk for developing congenital malformations when their mothers suffer from obesity and diabetes. These defects of the brain and spinal cord can cause babies to grow larger than average, making vaginal childbirth difficult or even impossible. In these cases, a C-section is often necessary.
Depression during pregnancy is linked with several risks to the mother and baby, such as smoking, drinking, and drug use. This can lead to difficulty bonding and postpartum depression. Women with a history of depressive illness are especially vulnerable. The hormone cortisol, which the body releases during times of stress, seems to make conception more difficult. However, exercise and adequate sleep may help reduce stress levels.
It is highly advised for women to seek pre-conception counseling from a doctor or midwife at least three months before getting pregnant. This will help them learn about the necessary steps to take in order to have a healthy pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout the years can result in a healthier pregnancy, especially for women who are beyond their prime fertility years.