In most or all cases, couples just have sex and the woman becomes pregnant. By the time she realizes she’s pregnant, around 1 to 2 weeks after missing her period, the developing baby in her womb is almost 4 weeks old.
Most women become pregnant in an unhealthy body state and only begin to take proper health measures when they register for antenatal care. While antenatal care is very important, some of the measures started after this first antenatal clinic visit (like taking folic acid supplements necessary for the healthy formation of the structure that gives rise to the brain and spinal cord) may have little to no impact on any damage that could have occurred from the time the woman took in, to when she realizes she’s pregnant (the first 3 to 4 weeks). How?
- Before doing the pregnancy test, the woman, not knowing she has become pregnant, might have been engaging in activities that are potentially harmful to the crucial stages of the baby’s growth and development during those first 3 to 4 weeks. These activities could include:
- alcohol intake, cigarette smoking, use of recreational/illicit drugs and use of herbal concoctions if these are part of her social lifestyle, and these can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, giving birth prematurely (this can lead to the baby developing a heart problem known as patent ductus arteriosus) or giving birth to baby whose weight is lower than normal
- working in an environment that exposes her toxic chemicals
- eating unhealthy
- Some women may be underweight, overweight or obese at the time of taking in. Being outside the healthy weight range at the time of conception can go on to adversely affect the growth and development of the baby forming in the woman’s womb.
- Some other women might be hypertensive or diabetic without knowing it and then go on to become pregnant. Becoming pregnant with an uncontrolled blood pressure and blood sugar level increases the risk of the woman having a miscarriage or a premature delivery; giving birth to a baby whose weight is bigger than normal or a baby with a deformity in one or more body systems.
- Some women might have had a previous miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery or given birth to a baby with a physical deformity. This means such women are more likely to witness such again in subsequent pregnancies which occur without planning.
So, when one bad thing or the other happens to that pregnancy despite having attended antenatal clinic as stated by the doctor, it is most likely a result of not receiving a preconception care before getting pregnant.
Preconception care is simply a specially designed care given to couples (the woman and her husband) before they meet (have sex without contraception) for the purpose of pregnancy in order to detect, treat or counsel them on pre-existing medical and social conditions that can negatively impact the woman having a safe pregnancy and delivery of a healthy baby.
Couples are advised to seek preconception care between 3 to 6 months before pregnancy. This means they should be on contraception during this period of care. Preconception care can be administered by any qualified medical doctor–the general practitioner or an obstetrician and gynaecologist. It involves taking a detailed medical history from the woman spanning her personal and past medical history, the history of her past pregnancies, her family and social history; the doctor will also perform some physical examination and carry out some tests. Findings like diabetes, hypertension, the woman being obese, previous miscarriage or stillbirth, alcohol intake and cigarette smoking will then enable the doctor to:
- counsel the woman on the need to stop taking alcohol and smoking cigarette, and the need to eat healthy and engage in physical exercise to reduce her weight before attempting to get pregnant
- administer the right drugs to bring the blood pressure and blood sugar level under control before the couple meets for pregnancy
- treat other medical conditions that were found in the woman or the man and follow the couple up before they attempt pregnancy
- refer the woman to a hospital with senior obstetricians and the right facilities to monitor the woman (with a previous history of things like miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and so on) closely when she becomes pregnant in order to prevent a similar negative outcome from occurring in this pregnancy.
Every couple should seek preconception care before attempting to get pregnant because it is the foundation of a good maternity care
For more advice and help, consult a doctor online via The Reliance Care App.