Improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy as you get olderMonday, March 01, 2021
MORE women are delaying motherhood to pursue higher education, facilitate career advancement and personal development. Unfortunately, a woman's biological clock does not stop ticking while she chases her dreams. That said, not only does the likelihood of conceiving get slimmer with each passing month, but her risk of pregnancy complications also increases.
On the upside though, obstetrician gynaecologist Dr Robyn Khemlani says even though women at an advanced maternal age are less fertile, there are ways to safely optimise their fertility and chances of a healthy pregnancy.
“Many women put off pregnancy well into their 30s and beyond and deliver healthy babies. Taking special care can help give your baby the best start, but first, you must understand the risks and how you will need to prepare to manage these,” Dr Khemlani advised.
Here's how you will achieve this:
Focus on yourself
Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. Make sure to pay special attention to the basics – this includes your physical and mental well-being that way you can be the best host for your baby.
Make a preconception appointment
Many women, unless they are having difficulty with conceiving, skip on a preconception visit with their doctor. But Dr Khemlani said that this visit is recommended for all women with a desire to conceive, but is especially important for women over 35 because it can help you to plan for a pregnancy. “During this visit, your OB-GYN should review your medical history, your family history, any past pregnancies, and any medications you take. Your doctor should also check for sexually transmitted infections, and treat them if possible,” Dr Khemlani advised.
The checklist for this doctor's visit should also include:
- Talk to your health care provider about your overall health
- Discuss lifestyle changes that might improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy and baby
- Address any concerns you might have about fertility or pregnancy
- Check with your OBGYN to make sure that all your immunisations are up to date
Start taking your folic acid and prenatal vitamins
The moment you decide that you are ready to start thinking about getting pregnant, make sure that you commence taking folic acid and your prenatal vitamins. Folic acid will reduce the chances of birth defects such as spina bifida in your little one. Taking a daily prenatal vitamin a few months before conception will support your body's nutrition.
Seek regular prenatal care
Make sure that you attend all your prenatal visits. This will help your health care provider to monitor yours and your baby's health. “Be sure to mention any signs or symptoms that concern you. Talking to your health care provider is likely to put your mind at ease,” Dr Khemlani recommends.
Eat a healthy diet
A very important part of maintaining a healthy pregnancy and nourishing your baby is maintaining a healthy diet. “You'll need more folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. If you're already eating a healthy diet, keep it up – your prenatal vitamins will fill any gaps.
Gain weight wisely
Gaining the right amount of weight can support your baby's health — and it also makes it easier to shed the extra pounds after delivery. With that said, you don't need to “eat for two” or use pregnancy as an excuse to indulge in unhealthy treats.
Some women are concerned about exercising while pregnant, but unless you are advised against it or you have underlying conditions, Dr Khemlani said that most doctors recommend regular physical activity. “Exercising can help ease or even prevent discomfort, boost your energy level and improve your overall health. It will also help you to prepare for labour and childbirth by increasing your stamina and muscle strength. Just be sure to get your doctor's okay before you start exercising,” Dr Khemlani advised.
Avoid risky substances
Alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs are off-limits during pregnancy. Clear any medications or supplements with your health care provider ahead of time. Failing to avoid these substances in pregnancy can cause serious complications as well as premature birth and other birth complications and defects.
Learn about prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities
Ask your doctor about prenatal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening, a method to screen for certain chromosomal abnormalities in a developing baby. “During prenatal cell-free DNA screening, DNA from the mother and foetus is extracted from a maternal blood sample and screened for the increased chance for specific chromosome problems, such as Down's syndrome, trisomy 13 and trisomy 18, this will give you an idea about the health of the foetus very early in pregnancy,” Dr Khemlani underscored.
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