It’s every couple’s dream to start building a family of their own by having a healthy baby. Pregnancy appears to be a natural expectation from any healthy couple but in a world where lifestyles are always on the go, planning is necessary to make sure that everything goes well. Being a party animal, getting by on a little sleep, too much alcohol and cigars ? all these will have to take a back seat in order to accommodate the beginning of a new life. Several months prior to conception, both the man and the woman should make sure they are practicing a healthy lifestyle to keep their body in a good condition. This can help minimize risk factors that can hurt the baby or the future parents. Sometimes, it only takes a healthy lifestyle change to boost the chances of pregnancy especially those who are having problems with infertility and other medical conditions. The first two to four weeks of pregnancy is very critical. During this time, a tiny placenta and embryo are already attached to the uterine wall. The baby’s development can be greatly affected by the following health and lifestyle issues: ? Serious birth defect called spina bifida is a condition characterized by a baby born with a spine that is not closed. To help prevent this condition, many food items, such as bread, bagels and breakfast cereal, are fortified with folic acid which is effective in reducing the risk of this birth defect. ? Alcohol is associated to premature delivery, mental retardation, birth defects and low-birth-weight babies. ? Smoking can cause conception difficulties and may increase the risk of preterm labor and low birth weight. ? Pregnant women should consult their physicians before taking any over-the-counter and prescription drugs due to the health risk it may cause to the unborn. Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, aspirin compounds and ibuprofen can cause a decrease in the amount of amniotic fluid and cause closure of the ductus arteriosa, an important blood vessel in the baby. ? Cocaine use is detrimental and life-threatening to both mother and baby. ? Pregnant women who have periodontal infections and gum disease can increase the risk of pre-term delivery up to eightfold. Babies born to mothers with these infections are twice as likely to be admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit, and three times more likely to need hospitalization beyond seven days. According to Michael Greene, MD, Director of Obstetrics at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, obesity is an especially critical issue for women of childbearing age. “Obesity is associated with many complications, because it greatly increases a woman’s risk of developing high blood sugar and diabetes ?either before they get pregnant or during their pregnancy,” adds Greene. The unborn is placed at high risk for a variety of congenital malformations, including defects of the brain and spinal cord brought about by the mother’s obesity and diabetes. The babies are likely to grow large in size making it difficult to have normal delivery and may require ceasarean section. Depression can also affect pregnancy. Women who get depressed when during pregnancy tend to smoke, drink alcohol or use illegal drugs which are harmful to the baby. Difficulty bonding with the baby and postpartum depression may also occur which is usual in women with a history of depressive illness. The cortisol hormone that the body releases during times of stress seems to make conception more difficult. However, exercise and getting plenty of sleep can help reduce stress. Women are adviced to see either a doctor or midwife at least 3 months before getting pregnant for pre-conception counseling. This will help women learn about what steps to take to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Keeping a healthy lifestyle over the years can translate into a healthy pregnancy especially when it’s past the prime of fertility years.
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