Having your first child is one of your most memorable moments along with getting married or buying your first home. However, this can be the best or worst of times depending on how organised you are. Here are five things you should do to prepare for the birth of your child.
Visit your general practitioner for a full check-up when planning a baby. This may include a Pap smear and breast examination. If you have any pre-existing conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes etc, you will need to talk to your doctor or specialist about how your medications may affect your pregnancy.
You should also discuss with your doctor about being immunised for the following diseases:
- Measles, Mumps & Rubella (MMR)
- Chicken Pox
- Pneumococcal Disease
- Whooping Cough
It’s also a good idea if you haven’t done so already to find out if you have a family history of any genetic disorders or health problems that may affect the health of your child.
It’s a good idea to join a health fund if you haven’t done so already and/or upgrade your existing cover to include pregnancy. Shop around or ask friends and family what health cover they recommend.
Remember some health funds have waiting periods of up to 12 months and different levels of excess for hospital stays so this is something you should find out straight away when you’re planning to start a family.
Make sure you are covered for all the things you could possibly want such as a room in a private hospital, a midwife and so forth.
Ideally start taking folic acid three months before you hope to conceive. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects like Spina Bifida – one of the most common of all birth defects and it’s most crucial in the first trimester as the brain and spinal cord are developing.
Your doctor can advise you on the correct dosage to take. You may have to take a higher dose if your family has a history of neural tube defects. Folic acid can also be found in vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and brussels sprouts as well as fruits like oranges, bananas, avocado and grapefruit.
Needless to say if you are trying for a baby, you should cut down on alcohol and excessive drinking, cigarette smoking and recreational drugs. You should also speak to your doctor about an exercise program that you can follow throughout all stages of the pregnancy.
You don’t need to follow a strict exercise program but aim to be in the healthy weight range for your body. Being underweight or overweight can effect fertility. You are also more prone to high blood pressure in pregnancy if you are overweight, which can be dangerous if left untreated.
It is important to have a dental check when preparing for pregnancy. The health of your teeth and gums may possibly affect the growth and development of your foetus.
More importantly, studies show that gum disease and oral infections can increase your risk for premature birth and low birth weight babies from either preterm labour or premature rupture of the membranes (meaning your water breaks early).
It’s a smart idea to tell your dentist about your plans to become pregnant so you can schedule any special work, treatments, or X-rays before you conceive.
Your medical history, previous family history, oral health and lifestyle can all affect your pregnancy and the health of your unborn child. Planning for a baby should start long before the baby is conceived so the first point of call is to speak to your general practitioner and map out a pregnancy plan to give your baby the best possible start in life.
You may want to read our article on Breastfeeding and the Workplace.