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How to prepare for your first ever pregnancy

Dear doctor, Am 32 and am now ready to start a family. I have never been pregnant and am quite anxious and not sure how to get ready for my first ever pregnancy. Any advice you can give?

Firstly, I must commend you for taking the trouble to plan your first pregnancy. Most couples unfortunately just find themselves unexpectedly pregnant, and then start scrambling with adjustments for upcoming parenthood. A planned pregnancy implies optimal physical, psychological and social preparedness for childbearing.

You need to cross-check your prevailing health status, and ensure you are in optimal health as you embark on getting pregnant. That means being up to date with all recommended health screening tests. Such screening includes sexual health screening, cervical cancer screening and any other relevant screening tests individualized to your specific circumstances. Check also that you are up to date with all the recommended vaccines. You may consider visiting your gynecologist for a pre-pregnancy check-up.

Your nutritional status should also be up to speed. Make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet, containing all the micro-nutrients that you require. You should avoid any toxic substances, go easy on alcohol or stop altogether. Smoking and other drugs should be a no . Prior to getting pregnant, it’s recommended that women take Folic Acid supplements, and continue up to the third month of pregnancy. Try to maintain an optimal weight for your height, aiming for a body mass index (BMI) of 19 to 25. Get yourself an exercise regime, it will help maintain your weight and keep you physically fit for pregnancy.

You also need to understand your reproductive cycle. A regular menstrual cycle implies consistent ovulation. You should conceive fairly shortly after you start trying. If twelve months elapse and you haven’t conceived, it would be best to get an assessment to work out why there has been a delay. But in the presence of other prevailing issues like irregular periods or other medical conditions, waiting for a year would be too long. In such cases, six months would be your reference point for seeking help if you haven’t conceived by then.

There are other non-medical things to consider while planning a pregnancy. It goes without saying that you will need some economic, social and work-life adjustments especially after you deliver. Don’t forget these as you plan forwards. You may find it helpful to join a mothers-to-be social group, with appropriate mentorship from experienced parents. Remember to enjoin your partner in all your preparedness.

Once you conceive, commence antenatal care within the first three months of the pregnancy. Make sure you adhere to all the antenatal recommendations, and don’t miss out antenatal clinic visits unnecessarily. Your pregnancy will be even more enjoyable as you have planned everything from the outset.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.

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