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Pregnancy And Birth

Thinking About Pregnancy

To give your pregnancy the best possible start, it's a good idea to think ahead. There are a number of steps you can take, which will not only increase your chances of conception, but will be your best guarantee of having a normal, healthy baby. Ideally, you and your partner should plan for pregnancy at least three months before you conceive. It is in the first few weeks, when you may not even know you are pregnant, that the baby's development can be most easily affected. So, keeping fit and eating well will ensure you have done as much as you can to nourish and protect the baby in the womb. There may be other things to consider, too: perhaps there arc hazards at work, which could affect the baby's health, or maybe you missed being vaccinated against German measles at school. Planning for pregnancy gives you the time you need to consider these kinds of risks and, if necessary, to do something positive about them.

CHECKLIST FOR PREGNANCY: Use these questions as a checklist if vou want to have a baby or find that you are pregnant. A few may not apply to you, but it's important to ask

Are you immune to German measles ?

German measles, or rubella, can cause serious defects to the baby if you develop it in pregnancy, especially early pregnancy, when the baby's internal organs are developing. So. before you become pregnant, ask your doctor for a blood rest to make sure that you are immune from the disease. If you are not, your doctor can give you a vaccination. Have the test in plenty of time as you shouldn't try to become pregnant for at least three months afterwards.

Have you or your partner a family history of inherited disease ?

Some medical conditions, such as haemophilia and cystic fibrosis, are inherited. If either you or your partner has a close relative with an inherited disease, there is a chance that It might be passed on to your baby. See your doctor before trying to become pregnant, and if necessary he can refer you to a genetic counsellor who can assess the level of risk that you will be taking. It's reassuring to know That, in most case, only if both partners carry the gene that causes the disease, does the child run a real risk of inheriting it.

Do you have a long-standing medical condition ?

If you have a medical disorder, such as diabetes or epilepsy. you should talk to your doctor before trying to become pregnant. Your doctor may want to change your drug treatment, either because the drugs you are on might affect the baby, or because they might make it more difficult for you to conceive.

What is generally the best age to have a baby ?

This is probably in your twenties, although more women are de-ciding to start a family at a later date, when they fed emotionally and financially ready for a baby. Risks of a difficult pregnancy do increase when the mother is over 35, but they are reduced if you are fit and healthy. You are also more likely to have a Down's syndrome baby. Women under 18 run a greater risk of having a still-birth or low-birthweight baby, but regular visits to the clinic and keeping healthy minimize this.

Does your work bring you into contact with any risks ?

if you or your partner has a job that involves working with chemicals, lead, anaesthetics or X-rays, this may affect your chances of conceiving, or involve a risk to the baby, so talk to your doctor. It may be sensible to move to a safer job before you become pregnant, or at least avoid the risk as much as possible. Once you are pregnant, you should take further steps to protect yourself. Your doctor may also advise you to change your job if it involves heavy lifting. VDUs (visual display units) are now believed to cause no harm to the baby.
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