I am asked from time to time: “How can I prepare to have a baby?” So, I have put this checklist together which covers the points that are relevant before you start trying.
- Health fund. Make sure you have appropriate health fund cover that covers you for confinement in a private hospital. Usually, there is a waiting period before coverage kicks in so check on this before you start trying. Also, please do not delegate checking to your husband/partner. I have had several patients who have done this with disastrous consequences because he got it wrong.
- Vaccinations. Make sure all your vaccinations are up to date. The most important are rubella and chickenpox. You can see your GP about this. Whooping cough is only a concern once the baby is born and the optimal time to have this vaccination is between 28 and 32 weeks pregnant.
- Other health issues. If you have other health issues then make sure management is optimal before conceiving. The commonest other health issues are diabetes, thyroid disease and hypertension. See your GP for a check.
- Well women check. See your GP for well women check. He/she may identify health issues that you’re not aware of which could have an impact on your pregnancy.
- Past obstetric history. If you have had miscarriages, advanced pregnancy losses or significant pregnancy or childbirth complications then I suggest you book a prepregnancy consultation with me I can personalise your pregnancy management and optimise your chances of a good outcome and uncomplicated pregnancy and childbirth experience.
- Optimal weight. Aim to be at an optional weight. Your BMI (body mass index) should be between 20 and 28 ideally. If your BMI is over 40 then check with your GP about what can be done to reduce it before you conceive. Being very overweight will have a considerable impact or your pregnancy care, increase the risks of pregnancy and can reduce your enjoyment of your pregnancy. Also, Norwest Private Hospital may not accept your maternity booking for your BMI is over 44. You can learn about your BMI or check out your BMI on the Australian Government Dept. of Health website.
- Optimal diet. Get into the habit of having a good quality diet with minimum junk food and fast food and carbonated drinks. Learn how to read food labels. Sadly, sugar is added to so many foods and the manufacturer often wants to hide it so you do not easily know it is in that particular food product. Never simply believe the information a manufacturer puts on the packaging label but do your own cross-checking.
- Optimal fitness. You don’t need to join a gym but certainly, start exercising more. This could be going for regular walks.
- Folic acid. Folic acid helps prevent spina bifida. You should be taking it at an 0.5mg/day for at least three months before you are pregnant.
- Dentist. Have a dental check-up as you are more prone to dental caries ( tooth decay) in pregnancy.
- Stop smoking. If you smoke then stop. No level of smoking is safe in pregnancy.
- Alcohol. Personally, I am not concerned about the occasional alcoholic drink in pregnancy. The evidence is lacking that it will do your baby harm. But if you drink regularly and especially if you are a heavy drinker then you should stop that behaviour before conceiving as this can impact your baby’s growth and wellbeing.
- Coffee. Coffee in moderation is ok in pregnancy but if your intake is excessive then prepregnancy is a good time to reduce it. NSW Health recommends that pregnant women limit themselves to 200mg of caffeine daily. That amount would be obtained from about 1-2 cups of espresso-style coffee, 3 cups of instant coffee, 4 cups of medium strength tea, 4 cups of cocoa or hot chocolate, or 4 cans of cola. Avoid double shots of espresso coffee and drinks marked as sports or energy drinks that contain caffeine.
- Stop social drugs. Recreational drugs are not only harmful to you but also can lead to birth defects and DNA damages in your baby.