Preparing for pregnancy and beyond
Knowing what to expect when you are expecting can help give you some peace of mind. It could also make all the difference to your pregnancy, especially if it’s your first. Here are some important things you need to know.
Let’s start at the very beginning…planning a pregnancy
It’s a good idea to visit your GP first for a pre-pregnancy chat. Your GP will usually give you a general physical checkup and ask you some questions about your health including any previous pregnancies, any problems you may have had, and if there are any known genetic issues in your family. They’ll also ask about medical conditions that may affect your pregnancy (e.g. diabetes, thyroid conditions, high blood pressure), and any medicines you are taking. Your doctor may also refer you for specific tests if necessary.
If you think you might already be pregnant, your GP or family planning clinic can arrange for a urine or blood test to confirm if you are pregnant.
Stay up-to-date and vaccinate
It’s important to make sure that you, family members and people you regularly come into contact with, are up-to-date with all the recommended vaccinations before you conceive. This is because certain infections (e.g. Rubella or German measles) can cause birth defects or even miscarriage. Vaccination also helps protect your newborn baby when they are too young to be vaccinated. Your doctor can provide advice about the recommended vaccines and whether or not you need them.
Start those supplements
About a month before trying to conceive and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, take at least 400 micrograms (0.4mg) of folic acid supplement daily. Folic acid reduces the chance of your baby being born with a spinal cord problem called a neural tube defect (NTD), such as spina bifida.
It’s also recommended you take 150 micrograms of iodine daily during pregnancy as your body will need more of this essential nutrient than normal, and you may not get enough from your diet. If you have thyroid condition, ask your doctor for advice before taking an iodine supplement.
No more butts
Stopping smoking is the best way to protect your developing baby from long-term damage to their lungs, brain and blood, and helps reduce their risk of future health problems including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and obesity.
The health benefits for both you and your baby will start as soon as you stop smoking. You are less likely to experience serious complications including miscarriage and premature birth. Your baby is also more likely to be born a healthy weight and need less care in hospital, and less likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s always a good time to stop smoking. Ask your GP for advice, or call the Quitline (13 78 48).
Say no to alcohol
It is best to avoid alcohol throughout pregnancy, but especially during the first 3 months when your baby’s essential organs including the brain are forming. Drinking too much alcohol can affect the baby’s brain development and slow its growth, resulting in a low birth weight and lifelong physical and behavioural problems. For support and advice on stopping alcohol consumption during pregnancy, speak frankly with your doctor or maternal and child health nurse.
It’s natural to be excited about the joys of pregnancy and the arrival of your little one, but it’s important to be aware that it may not be all smiles and gurgles. Many women feel a bit overwhelmed by all the changes, so don’t be afraid to ask for help at any time.
And if you’re feeling irritable or depressed, like you’re not coping, or you’ve lost interest in things you used to enjoy for 2 weeks or more, it’s worth speaking to your GP or maternal and child health nurse about it. They can chat through any concerns you may have, and they can also refer you on to a health care professional who specialises in perinatal (during and after pregnancy) mental health.
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.