At Women and Newborn Hospital, we believe that there is no replacement for a healthy preconception diet for optimal health. We continually focus on food items that contain necessary nutrients in our preconception diet plans, along with supplements. While preconception nutrition requirements differ for each, which will be tailored to fit your requirements, below are general pre-pregnancy diet thumb-rules:
- Include foods with folic acid – Most leafy green vegetables and whole grains are naturally full of folic acid and essential food for getting pregnant. Studies show that the earlier you start getting enough of this vital vitamin, the lower are the chances of your baby developing neural tube.
- Have a balanced diet to maintain a Low Glycemic Index – Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of the influence of food on your glucose (sugar) levels. An ideal ratio is 40% carbohydrates, 30% fat, and 30% protein. A low GI helps to regulate your blood sugar for maintained energy and fewer cravings and should be taken care of in your diet for getting pregnant.
- Include probiotics in your diet to get pregnant – Probiotics are friendly bacteria that are a crucial part to nutrient absorption. They help your GI stay happy and balanced.
- Eat a range of healthy food items to get pregnant – To ensure proper phytonutrient intake, include a ‘rainbow’ of food items daily. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white, tan – try to incorporate at least one food from each colour daily. Phytonutrients help improve vitality and make you livelier.
- Include herbs and spices in your preconception diet – Herbs and spices promote balance along with your digestive tract and help to decrease free radical damage done to your body while supporting your detoxification pathways.
The first step of a Preconception Checkup is a detailed review of your medical health and lifestyle, followed by counselling based on the findings. At Women and Newborn Hospital, this session involves a discussion of your gynecologic, obstetric, medical, vaccination, emotional and social history. Your doctor will also discuss in detail, your lifestyle and other habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption, nutrition, exercise, exposure to toxic and chemical substances, use of hot tubs and saunas. Based on this information, your doctor may also ask you to undertake a few pre-pregnancy tests.
The series of tests before pregnancy that our health professionals may suggest will determine the cause of inability to conceive so that they can prescribe suitable treatment. Some tests to take before pregnancy are:
- Physical exam – A detailed exam measures height, weight, blood pressure as well as checks all your systems such as your cardiovascular system, your lungs, abdomen and looks for signs of any medical condition in any other system.
- Gynaecological exam – This will include a genital examination for signs of any sexually transmitted infection (STI) or growths. Also, a PAP smear test will be advised to screen for cervical cancer and an HPV test. A pelvic exam may also be done to check for any lumps, masses or tenderness.
- Urine test – Routine examination of the urine will reveal the presence of urinary tract infection. Your urine sample will then be sent to a lab for a culture test. If sugar is detected in your urine, you’ll have a glucose tolerance test to check for diabetes.
- Blood test – A blood test will also be prescribed. This will help to screen for some conditions such as anaemia, thalassemia or other haemoglobin variants, immunity to rubella, chickenpox and herpes, syphilis or other STIs, HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and thyroid dysfunction. Also, depending upon your clinical condition, other tests to determine the function of your kidney and liver may be prescribed.
- An Ultrasound (USG) of the abdomen will be advised to check for growths or cysts in the ovaries and uterine size or the presence of fibroids.
- Other tests that may be requested depending on your clinical examination may include an ECG or 2D Echo
- Genetic disorder screening – Depending on your or your partner’s health history, a genetic disorder screening may be recommended. This will help determine if you face the risk of passing on a genetic disorder, such as Fragile X syndrome, cystic fibrosis or sickle cell disease.
The probability of complications associated with pregnancy and delivery is higher in women with PCOS. Some of the complications are the risk of miscarriage in early pregnancy, high blood pressure, diabetes during pregnancy and body swelling after the 20th week of pregnancy or preeclampsia, preterm birth, and C-section delivery.
Of course, with the right care and preventive measures, these risks can be lowered, and you too could have a safe pregnancy and healthy baby. Some general guidelines we follow at Women and Newborn Hospital are:
Monitoring blood glucose levels – While pregnant, check your blood sugar levels as often as recommended by the doctor, which will be more often than before pregnancy. Understand from your doctor what the ideal blood glucose levels should be and maintain it.
Continue insulin treatment as before – If you were already using an insulin pump before pregnancy, you should continue doing so. It is not advisable to start using an insulin pump for the first time during pregnancy. However, if other insulin treatments don’t work, your doctor would recommend an insulin pump.
Follow recommended diet – Consult a qualified nutritionist for a diet plan tailored to maintaining your optimum blood sugar levels. Three small balanced meals and 2-4 healthy snacks are recommended. Exercise regularly and work to maintain a healthy weight gain that will be prescribed by your doctor.
Take prescribed vitamins regularly -Your doctor will prescribe specific prenatal vitamins to ensure the healthy development of the baby such as folic acid. Doses may vary as the pregnancy advances and it is crucial to follow the recommended dosages to minimise the risk of complications.
Will you be able to breastfeed?
Women with diabetes are strongly encouraged to breastfeed their baby. Breastfeeding, in fact, lowers your baby’s risk for childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life. Women with gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and breastfeeding seems to lower that risk. It also may help in losing weight gained during pregnancy. It is safe to continue insulin while breastfeeding. Consult your doctor about the diabetic medication you are taking while breastfeeding.
Unsuccessful attempts at conception can be quite stressful. It can be even more infuriating to be faced with well-wishers who ask you to try to relax. The irony, though, is that relaxation and stress-relief may help increase your chances of pregnancy. At Women and Newborn Hospital, our experienced healthcare professionals understand the frustration you may be feeling. To offset this, we recommend some effective ways to reduce stress while trying to conceive, as detailed below:
- Breathing exercises – It is astounding how simple inhalation and exhalation exercises can reduce stress when you’re trying to get pregnant. Try taking a series of three deep, steady breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Allow your head to rise with each inhalation and drop your chin to your chest with each exhalation to stretch your neck muscles.
- Practice visualisation techniques – When you feel stress levels mounting, try take a few minutes out to visualise a calming image. These can range from a serene mountain stroll or a beach siesta, depending on what works for you. Mentally linger there, while taking in the sights, sounds and scents, and you may be amazed by the results.
- Stretching exercises – Make it a habit of doing a few simple stretching exercises every day, involving your arms, legs, neck, and shoulders. These simple exercises can help make you feel supple and light. A simple routine of 15 minutes per day can contribute to reduce stress and aid conception.
- Cut the noise – In today’s world, it is common to be constantly surrounded by chatter from electronics. These can include televisions, cell phones, tabs or even computers. Disengaging yourself from this unwanted noise can help you experience a sense of calmness.
- Treat yourself to some aromatherapy – Look for scents that can soothe you such as lavender, sandalwood or lemongrass. You can also buy some essential oils or candles. Find ways to incorporate them into your daily routine, perhaps by using them in a diffuser or add them to your bath, to help you feel rejuvenated.