Every pregnancy is different. But there are things that one can do to make the experience stress-free. According to gynecologists, preparing for pregnancy could also help women tide over the issues that may come along the way.
Plan the pregnancy
Dr Manjiri Sumit Mehta, consultant, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Navi Mumbai, strongly recommends planning pregnancy for a smooth and happy process.
Planning involves pre-pregnancy counselling sessions. These sessions prepare the woman for every stage of pregnancy. Dr Mehta says that in the pre-pregnancy counselling sessions, specialised doctors recommend various tests (such as glucose, thyroid function and pap smear) to prevent complications that could emerge during pregnancy.
Eat healthy for smooth pregnancy
“Pregnant women must eat healthy and nutritious food with a balance of carbohydrate, protein and fat,” says Dr Yasmin Imdad, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Kinder Women’s Hospital and Fertility Centre, Bengaluru
Dr Mehta adds, “eating fruits every day is a must during pregnancy.”
Gynecologists also stress the importance of hydration. Your Pregnancy Week by Week, a book produced in conjunction with the British magazine, Practical Parenting, recommends the need to consume at least eight (200 ml each) glasses of water every day.
Recharge your batteries during pregnancy
“The key to a smooth pregnancy lies in enhancing your emotional well-being and not overexerting yourself,” says Dr Imdad.
Dr Mehta says that taking time out for yourself is crucial during pregnancy. “Listen to music, read books or get involved in some activity that recharges your soul and keeps you happy.” Dr Mehta also reiterates the importance of exercise during pregnancy. “They (exercises) should be practised under the guidance of a certified physiotherapist who will be able to guide you through different workouts that are designed for the first, second and third trimesters.”
Discuss delivery options for pregnancy
Delivery can be done at home or in a hospital. Some women also opt for water births. The delivery can be natural, a scheduled induction, Cesarean delivery (C-section – planned or unplanned) or vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC).
“Pregnant women should know their labouring options and mentally prepare themselves for what to expect. This will help them go through the labour more smoothly,” says Dr Mehta.
Discuss medical history with the doctor
Dr Mehta emphasises the need for informing the gynaecologist about any form of food/drug/dust allergy that the pregnant woman suffers from. It will help to know if the woman is easily affected by seasonal cough, cold or fever or if she has asthma issues.
Dr Mehta warns these issues can get worse during pregnancy. But prior knowledge about this can prevent any complications. For instance, a pregnant woman with asthma can be recommended to consult a physician as a precautionary measure and keep an SOS treatment kit handy.
Understand the need for post-delivery maternal care
Dr Mehta says, “the new mother should be made aware of the symptoms and signs of post-partum blues or post-partum depression. This can happen during the pregnancy phase too. Timely diagnosis and counselling sessions can help the new mothers tackle these issues.”
Plan the ergonomics
Dr Mehta emphasises the need to plan the ergonomics and household amenities well in advance. Considering the nuclear nature of most families today, the soon-to-be parents should prepare for the additional amenities that need to be fixed before the baby’s arrival (such as childproofing). Household duties such as childcare and household chores should also be planned.
Prenatal folic acid
Folic acid must be consumed during the first trimester of pregnancy, says Dr Imdad. Gynecologists also recommend including folic acid supplements even before conception. It helps boost the baby’s metabolism and prevent abnormalities in the unborn baby.
Early breast care
Dr Mehta says one of the less talked about subjects is breast care. She points out that breast issues such as blocked milk ducts, flat nipples and retractive or cracked nipples need early attention to ease the breastfeeding process post-delivery.
Dr Mehta adds that issues such as cracking or flatness can be corrected by keeping the prominent glands in the areola and nipples moisturised. This helps to ease the stress that could arise during breastfeeding.
Determine the external factors
“It is important to choose a gynaecologist, dietician, physiotherapist and other specialists who are available under one roof,” says Dr Mehta.
Dr Imdad recommends every woman should undergo regular antenatal check-ups as per the doctor’s advice. Also, the prescribed medicines should be consumed regularly.
Avoid the following during pregnancy
Dr Mehta strongly advises against any long-distance travel for pregnant women. Women in metro cities should travel to their workspaces based on their doctor’s advice.
The book, Your Pregnancy Week by Week, advises against foreign travel too. Flying in an unpressurised aircraft can significantly reduce the oxygen supply to the pregnant mother and the foetus.
But if travel is unavoidable the book says:
- Take suggestions from the doctor about the necessary vaccinations before foreign travel
- Record your allergies and the contact numbers of your midwife or doctor for emergencies
- Drink only bottled water. Avoid tap water and ice in water for hygiene purposes
Pregnant women should avoid eating out as much as possible to prevent stomach infections. These issues may not be good for the unborn baby’s health. If eating out becomes necessary, refrain from eating cold and/or uncooked food such as salads, says Dr Mehta.
Dr Imdad adds, “avoid unpasteurised milk and cheese, raw meat, cured meat such as salami, liver and liver-based products and fish containing high amounts of mercury such as shark or swordfish. For example, liver sausages can result in high levels of retinol which is harmful to the unborn baby.”
Alcohol and nicotine
Dr Imdad strongly advises against smoking and alcohol even as women plan their pregnancy. And indulging in them during pregnancy can adversely affect foetal health. Smoking (or nicotine) can constrict the blood vessels and lead to preterm labour and low-birth weight in babies. Alcohol consumption can lead to defects in the unborn baby.
People with infectious diseases
Dr Imdad advises pregnant women to isolate themselves completely from people affected by contagious diseases such as chicken pox, cold and flu to avoid being infected.