Okay, so now you’ve been married a couple of years, got a car, house on EMI, parental pressure for pregnancy building up, the big question pops up. Are you ready for a baby?
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME?
As an Obstetrician, I would always say ‘now’! But, realistically, a woman should accept that whatever your fitness levels, easiest conceptions, pregnancies and deliveries happen before your hit the thirties.
In today’s urban lifestyle of sedentary long office hours and stress, coupled with Type A personalities, and topped with alcohol, smoking and bad food habits, the incidence of hormonal imbalance like polycystic ovarian disease is getting exceedingly common. Also, on the rise are problems like endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. Hence, reasons for infertility are on the increase. Added to it, the incidence of premature ovarian failure/ menopause on the rise, probably attributable to pollutants and chemicals in our diet. So, definitely, if a woman has hit her thirties, no point delaying a pregnancy, if you are keen on one.
ANY PRELIMINARY WORK UP?
It is a good idea to visit an obstetrician who would put you on regular folic acid, which can be started three months prior to conception. Folic acid is a vitamin B and has been seen to prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
Smoking is a big no-no for both partners since not only are birth defects growth retardation and preterm labor attributable to it, it also affects the quality of sperm and may contribute to infertility itself.
A healthy lifestyle for the couple incorporating regular exercise, may be a walk for about 40 minutes or a swim is a good idea. Avoid processed foods, have lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and water to build up on the micronutrients and vitamins to ensure healthy ova and sperms, and hence a healthy baby.
Certain investigations including the couple’s blood groups, thyroid levels, a thalassemia profile and a rubella immunoglobulin test is done. If you have not been priorly vaccinated for rubella or HPV, then this is the right time, even though you may need to defer the pregnancy by a month.
Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 tests are done and supplementation started if any deficiency.
An examination, including a Pap smear ensures that the basic work up is complete, and you are on your way!
WHAT ARE THE GOOD DAYS?
Though now ovulation kits and ultrasound for follicle monitoring are readily available with a regular menstrual cycle, try at least for 3 months to get pregnant, before seeking additional help.
In a regular 30 day cycle, the peak fertile period is Day 13 to Day 17, counting Day 1 as the start of the menstrual cycle. If the cycle is shorter, subtract as many days, i.e. for a 28 day cycle. Day 11 to Day 15 and similarly, add the days, if it is a longer cycle. Apparently, for our tech savvy generation, there are lots of apps available on your smartphones to help.
However, if the cycles are irregular, then help in the form of ovulation kits/ your doctor is definitely merited.
YOU ARE PREGNANT! NOW WHAT?
Congratulations, and time to visit your obstetrician. She will advise you on the do’s and don’ts. Avoid sex till the first ultrasound, to be on the safer side, although not mandatory. Regular walking and routine activities are to be continued but wear comfortable clothing and footwear, have lots of water, no x-ray exposure and avoid any medicine intake, unless prescribed by your doctor. Let your other doctors know that.
Basic investigations including viral markers like HIV and HBSAg test will be done. A six weeks ultrasound will be ordered to see the cardiac activity and localization of the heartbeat.
Your calorie requirement increases by 150 calories in the first trimester and 350 calories in the second and third trimester which is there is an extra glass of milk. So basically, never eat ‘for two’! Divide your meals, rather than multiply them. Small frequent meals should be the mantra! A diet rich in proteins like dals, milk and milk products, soya, eggs and meats helps in growth of the baby. Vitamin rich foods like fruits, vegetables, salads and soups should be incorporated in the diet. Avoid artificial sweeteners, chemicals like MSG, salt containing processed foods and snacks.
So now that the ship has sailed into your pregnancy, bon voyage! And enjoy your pregnancy to the hilt – Pregnancy should be a beautiful experience and parenthood a blessing – also, that’s when you become closest to being a God – creating a being from your own flesh and blood – ethereal!
Dr. Meenakshi Ahuja
Director, Obstetrics & Gynaecology