Getting Ready For Pregnancy
Congratulations! Don’t be surprised, you may not have a baby yet but the fact that you are reading this says that you are well on the right track to holding your bundle of joy.
We know preparing for a baby might seem daunting; especially for first time mums but we want to be there with you every step of the way. So before getting started here are a few things you might want to tick off your to-do your list. The list is not exhaustive, neither is it a prerequisite for getting pregnant but it will help you keep the road ahead, in perspective.
See what you need by clicking on any of the links below or read through the whole article to get all the info you need.
Once you get married; especially in this part of the world, people start asking, “how far?”, “What are you waiting for?” This might be a tad bit frustrating; especially if you have been trying for a while and it seems other women are getting pregnant effortlessly. Statistics show that most couples need to make love at least a 100 times before conceiving so don’t give up, keep working at it and try not to worry. Besides, anxiety might only put a spanner in the works. If however you have been at it for a while, you may want to see a medical practitioner to make sure everything is A-okay (see section on Fertility).
Having a baby requires careful thought. Many women have babies without blinking but if you can plan for it, then go for it.
Who will be responsible for the baby’s care? Should I quit work? What if I have twins? There is also the option of putting your child in daycare or crèche. You might be one of the many mums-to-be, who have a mother, mother-in-law or other relatives who are willing to babysit for free. This is fantastic and it takes a load of parents but you should make alternative arrangements to give them time off or put them on a rota to ensure that they still have free time to do their own things. Relatives can get overwhelmed with babysitting without any time off.
If you don’t have a relative who can babysit, now might be a good time to ask your friends about nannies (live-in or day). You will also need to talk your spouse about the possibility of sharing child care responsibilities or even about extending your maternity leave. You may even decide to be a stay-at-home mum.
Very few drugs work well with pregnancy, it is important to read the fine print when you are trying to get pregnant and even more important to let your medical practitioner know.
Alcohol intake should be avoided when you are trying for a baby. You might need some time to wean yourself off it, so there is no time like the present for you to start. Alcohol intake affects both men and women trying for babies so yes, this means dads too! The quality of the sperm and eggs produced can be hampered by too much alcohol. Alcohol usage has also been linked to several birth defects like Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and it is also readily absorbed by the foetus during pregnancy; since it can cross through the placenta and into the foetus’ blood stream. This might sound strange in an environment where alcohol is deemed to aid fertility. You may even know a Mrs. A, who was never seen without a bottle all through her pregnancy but is your baby’s safety worth betting on? See more on Conception, Drugs, Alcohol & Medication
Make sure you are eating nutritious meals, regularly. Your baby will require lots of nutrients for her development. You need to prepare your body for the journey ahead. Major organs like the brain, heart and lungs start developing way before many women realize they have conceived. Don’t wait until the strip in your pregnancy test stick turns blue (or red), before you start eating right.
You will need to start taking Folic acid the minute you decide you want to get pregnant. Folic acid is very beneficial in the first month of pregnancy since it helps to prevents neural birth defects like, spina bifida. The minute you think of having a baby, start taking 0.4μmg (400 micrograms) of Folic acid daily.
Other nutrients your body needs to stock up on include iron, calcium, vitamins, carbohydrates and protein. For more on important nutrients for conception and their sources, see section on Eating Right Before Pregnancy.
It is wise to consider the cost of prenatal, natal and antenatal care (including medication and delivery), when planning for a baby. Medical cost will vary depending on if you are using a private or public hospital (See Healthcare Costs). Generally, private hospitals are more expensive and their costs vary from one to another. If you work in an organization, now is the time to ask your Human Resource personnel about your medical plan/insurance and what it covers. If you are planning to take up the cost yourself, you may need to start setting aside money towards this or take up a medical insurance.
Baby paraphernalia can be quite expensive and many parents have discovered that the usual, ‘born now, think later’ approach might not be the best stance to take. Start thinking about your finances by writing down a list of the possible items you might need from conception to delivery and beyond. Here are few things that might help you get started.
Proper nutrition through Mum:
Cleaning and Bathing:
Weaning & toddler feeding
Out & About
Leisure & Relaxation aids
This might seem near impossible for most women especially if you live in a busy city, commute through heavy traffic, work crazy hours and get home late. There are however a few things that can help you develop a knack for exercising.
- Try making it fun instead of a chore by trying out a new sport.
- You can also take-up something exciting and exotic like zumba or salsa dancing classes. There are some exercise dance videos you can also buy for personal use.
- Make it even more beneficial by involving your hubby. You could also use a motion sensing game console to play and exercise together. This can help you spend quality time together. A win, win situation.
- You can also try swimming or cycling and while we are at it, why not take a hike instead of a bike (okada)/car when you are out and about.
- Get an exercise patner or form a pregnancy exercise group in your locality. This will encourage you and keep you accountable.
To know why conception exercises are important to help keep you in shape as well as prepare your body for the baby, see more on Conception Exercise.
As mentioned in Finances, you should be aware of the medical costs for you and your baby. Who will bear the cost? Will it be you, your employer, spouse, parents or the government?
Health care in Nigeria is divided into primary, secondary and tertiary as well as private.
- Primary Health Care is provided through Local Government health care centres and dispensaries.
- Secondary Health Centres include, General or State run University Teaching Hospitals and Maternity Centres.
- The Tertiary Health Care system is managed by the University Teaching Hospitals and Medical Centres which are largely run by the Federal Government.
Typically, health costs in the aforementioned institutions vary from free or paltry to relatively dear.
Healthcare is also provided by Private clinics or hospitals which are largely owned and run, by individuals or organisations. The cost of treatment in a private clinic or hospital can be considerably higher than their public counterparts.
Beyond the very important aspect of cost, it is also important to have a basic knowledge of the clinic or hospital before you decide to register there. Ensure that location, recommendations and sentiments are not the only deciding factors. The following might be useful in helping you decide:
- Are they accredited?
- Have they been certified to offer maternity or pediatric services?
- What does the hospital look like, is it unkempt and dirty? A dirty hospital means diseases can catch on like wildfire.
- Do they have qualified personnel and specialists on standby?
- What do their maternity wards look like?
- What are the emergency procedures for mother and child?
- Do they have well equipped and functional Operating Theatres and Intensive Care Units?
- What is their patient care, outpatient care and customer service like?
- Do they empathize with patients?
- Do they have nurses that are trained and experienced enough to manage emergencies till a specialist arrives?
- Do they have a good safety record?
- Is the hospital easily accessible?
All these might sound farfetched now but when you are in need of care, you need to make sure that you are getting the best and that you can count on their services, especially if you are paying a premium for it. It may save yours or your child’s life.
A medical examination before conception is important to assess your body properly before pregnancy. It is a common practice for women to see a Gynecologist only:
- When they discover they are pregnant (usually first time mums)
- When they are over 3 months pregnant (usually second time mums)
- Or if they have been trying for a baby for a while.
It is however very important to have a medical examination the minute you decide to start a family. If a woman has fertility worries, a check can help dispel them or detect and possibly correct it.
During the prenatal examination, your medical history will be taken. If you have had a baby before or are registered in the hospital, then they should have most of your history on file. If you are using a new hospital then you may need to ask for a referral or transfer of your case file to the new hospital.
So who do you see when you are planning to conceive? A Gynaecologist is a doctor whose area of specialization involves women’s reproductive health while an Obstetrician specializes in childbirth/natal care and antenatal care for mothers. So when planning to conceive, you need to see a Gynecologist.
During the check, a number of factors will be assessed.
- Medical History
- Substance/alcohol use
- Menstrual Cycle
- Sexual relations
- Genotype & Genetics
- Routine Tests
- Screening Tests e.g. cervical screening
‘Obviously’, you quip? You will be shocked at how many women forget to do this. If you are using any form of contraception, you may need to be a bit patient because your body might need some time to get back to normal, see section on Family Planning: Contraceptives.
Taking a pregnancy test is as simple as buying a test kit and pee-ing on it and while you must be very hopeful about the results, you must try not to jump into any uninformed conclusions without proper consultation, especially if the results are negative, (for more, see Am I Pregnant?)
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