Take care to be born well. - George Bernard Shaw We are all familiar with the adage: 'Be good to your baby before it is born'. This aphorism serves to emphasize the importance of medical care during pregnancy (known as antenatal care). However, in reality, the best time to start taking care of your unborn baby is even before you conceive! Such care is called pre-pregnancy or pre-conception care.
Why is this care so important? Remember, that the foetal organs are actively developing during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (this crucial period is called 'organogenesis'.) The embryo is highly susceptible to external insults during this time, so that any damage can lead to crippling birth defects.
The beauty about pre-pregnancy care
is that it is so simple. All that is involved is visiting your doctor before
you are planning to get pregnant, rather than after you've missed your
menstrual period! The doctor normally undertakes the following procedures:
(1) takes a medical history; (2) carries out a physical examination; and
(3) performs some simple laboratory tests. These procedures are inexpensive
and easy to conduct and signify examples of preventive medicine at its
Nipping problems in the bud
Pre-pregnancy care also leads to other benefits. For instance, it allows the doctor (duly assisted by you) to identify problems and rectify them. If, on the other hand, these problems were to be spotted only after you became pregnant, detailed testing can become very difficult, because the very presence of the delicate embryo can impede testing. The harsh reality is that not all problems are preventable, but you can, nevertheless, increase your chances of having a healthy baby by identifying the risks you face and trying to eliminate them, if possible. After all, most doctors go in for a battery of tests before performing major surgery, to make sure that the patient is healthy enough to withstand the stress generated by the operation and the anesthesia. Pregnancy can also stress the body, and it is important to screen the woman for potential problems before she embarks on one of the most important journeys she will ever make!
The most important precaution to be taken is to ensure a regular intake of a vitamin called folic acid. Folic acid greatly reduces the chances of your baby being born with spina bifida (a developmental anomaly affecting the spinal cord) or anencephaly (without a brain) if taken before you become pregnant and during the first six weeks of pregnancy. This vitamin is now routinely prescribed in many countries in the West to prevent many birth defects.
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- The Indiaparenting Team