Monday, January 10, 2005

Checkups ready prospective parents for pregnancy

Checkups ready prospective parents for pregnancy
January 10, 2005
By Darla Carter
Gannett News Service

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Or so the old saying goes. But before the baby, there's some planning that prospective moms should do to make sure their bodies are ready for pregnancy.

"If you start out with a healthy mom, then you're more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and therefore a healthy baby," says Katrina Thompson, director of program services for the Greater Kentucky Chapter of the March of Dimes.

Here are some things you should consider if you're planning to become pregnant soon.

Get a pre-pregnancy checkup. It's important to make sure that women's "general health, not just their reproductive health, is in order," says Dr. Jonathan Reinstine, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Norton Suburban Hospital in Louisville, Ky. This includes checking to see that pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma, are under control.

Bring your partner along. He should be able to help answer some key questions.

The doctor is likely to "ask about your health history and possibly your partner's health history and your family health," Thompson says.

The doctor "might also ask if you or your partner or close relative have certain birth defects or disorders," she says. "At that point, he might refer you to a genetic counselor or have a special test to see if those problems could be passed on to your baby if you get pregnant."

The doctor also might want to know whether you or your partner "work with chemicals or have hobbies that have potentially adverse effects for a growing fetus," says registered nurse Chris Summerfield, women's health community education coordinator for Baptist Hospital East in Louisville.

Be prepared to be asked about past pregnancies, complications and miscarriages.

Update vaccinations. Among other things, the doctor will want to make sure you're immune to German measles (rubella). If you're not, then you'll need to be vaccinated against it and postpone pregnancy for three months, Summerfield says.

Review your medications and supplements. Make sure any medicine you're taking is compatible with pregnancy by discussing the drugs with your doctor, Reinstine says. Some medicines carry a risk of miscarriage and birth defects.

Bring a list of your prescription drugs as well as any over-the-counter drugs or herbal supplements you're taking.

Ask the doctor about contraceptives and when they should be stopped.

Get screened for STDs. Find out whether you have sexually transmitted diseases or infections, such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis.

"If a mom has had any sexually transmitted diseases that have not been cured, such as gonorrhea or syphilis, that can lead to problems for the baby," Summerfield says.

But even in cases where there is no cure for the mother, there may be ways to improve baby's chances of being healthy, Reinstine says.

Get tested for anemia. You may need to take iron supplements.

Mind your dental health. Pregnant women who have severe gum disease may be at increased risk for premature delivery, according to the American Dental Association. So consider getting a dental checkup.

Discuss parenting. Couples should discuss each other's views about parenting, child-care arrangements, housing and writing a will. Couples should also talk about who will take care of the baby if it's orphaned and even how to pay for college, Summerfield says.

After all, having a baby is a "forever life-altering, life-changing event," she says. These kinds of questions can help to determine: "Is this a couple that is truly ready to commit to the life changes that a baby will bring?"

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