In one of our previous articles we talked about pre-pregnancy planning so you can be the healthiest you can be before you fall pregnant, and to increase your changes of conceiving and having a healthy baby. If some of those tips helped and now you are pregnant you may be wondering – what do I do next?
Firstly, congratulations! It is a very exciting time in your life and we wish you a comfortable and relaxed pregnancy.
A good start is to see your GP for your first pregnancy visit around the 4 – 8 week mark. Your GP can confirm your pregnancy and dates, assess your health and organise routine antenatal tests recommended for your pregnancy. They will also give you information regarding where you can receive your ongoing pregnancy care and where you can deliver your baby. Outlined below is a ten point pregnancy checklist to help you achieve a healthy pregnancy.
1.Blood Tests in Pregnancy
Your GP will order some initial bloods tests including your blood group and antibody testing (for Rhesus factor). They will also screen for infections that can affect you and your baby. Other blood tests may be carried out depending on your circumstances and may include testing your iron, thyroid and vitamin D levels. An initial urine test will be sent off to exclude infection also.
Blood tests will be repeated at various stages of your pregnancy including a test for gestational diabetes which is usually done at 26 – 28 weeks, or earlier for those at high risk.
2. Ultrasounds in Pregnancy
If you are unsure of the date of your last period and are unsure how may weeks pregnant you may be you can have an ultrasound to determine your approximate due date. A first trimester ultrasound is usually performed between 11 – 14 weeks and a second trimester ultrasound at 18 – 20 weeks is recommended to check the baby’s organs.
3. Antenatal Screening Tests
Antenatal screening tests are offered to all women in the first trimester of pregnancy to identify if there is an increased chance of having a baby with a chromosomal condition. These tests are optional. This includes a special ultrasound (called the Nuchal Translucency Scan) in combination with a blood test at approximately 12 weeks. More recently another blood test has become available called a Non Invasive Perinatal Test (NIPT). This is a blood test of the mother, performed at approximately 10 weeks, which contains part of the DNA of the baby. This test comes at an extra cost so please discuss with your doctor.
4. Multivitamins in Pregnancy
Folic acid supplements are recommended during your pregnancy to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. The usual recommended dose is 0.5mg, but in some patients 5mg is recommended depending on their underlying health conditions. 150mg of Iodine daily is also recommended for brain and nervous system development. Check with your pharmacist that the pregnancy multivitamin you are taking contains the recommended amounts. Other supplements may be recommended such as iron or Vitamin D depending on your circumstances.
5. Diet and Exercise in Pregnancy
A healthy, well balanced diet with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables is recommended during pregnancy. You don’t need to ‘’eat for two’’ – two additional healthy snacks is all that is required. Foods to avoid during pregnancy include any raw meats and raw seafood, soft cheeses and ensure salads are well washed to reduce the risk of an infection called Listeriosis. It’s still ok to have caffeine but it is recommended to reduce your intake to 2 or 3 cups of coffee or 6 cups of tea a day.
Keeping fit and active during pregnancy is important for physical and psychological wellbeing as well as helping prepare the body for childbirth. Thirty minutes of aerobic and strengthening activity 4 to 5 times per week is recommended, however avoid contact or high sport risk sports, and avoid overheating.
6. Vaccination during Pregnancy
During pregnancy the immune system is reduced which makes women and their unborn baby more susceptible to certain infections. When pregnant women are vaccinated antibodies transfer to the baby so they also receive protection. Three government funded vaccines are recommended during pregnancy to reduce the risk of significant illness to mother and unborn baby. This includes the influenza vaccine (given at any stage of pregnancy), the whooping cough (pertussis) vaccine between 20 and 32 weeks, and the Covid-19 vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.
7. Medications during Pregnancy
If you are on any regular medications it is important to talk to your doctor or pharmacist to check if they are safe during pregnancy. You should also check if any over the counter medications or herbal supplements you may be taking are safe also. The Mothersafe hotline at the Royal Hospital for Woman in Randwick is also a good resource – 02 9382 6539
8.Smoking and Alcohol during pregnancy
Smoking can be harmful to your unborn baby and increase the risk of early pregnancy loss, prematurity, low birth weight and stillbirth. We recommend you do not smoke and preferably not be in the company of smokers for lengthy periods of time. Alcohol can also cause harm to the unborn baby including brain development. There is no consensus on safe levels of alcohol that can be consumed during pregnancy so it is best to avoid.
9.Antenatal Care options
There are many options for antenatal care and delivery available and this may depend on your circumstances and underlying health risks. Options may include referral to the local public hospital antenatal clinic for care managed by midwifes and doctors, ‘’share care’’ with your GP with delivery at the public hospital, or referral you to a private obstetrician for delivery at a private hospital.
10. Mental wellbeing during pregnancy
It is just as important to look after your mental health during pregnancy as your physical health. If you have noticed an increase in symptoms of depression or anxiety please reach out and talk to your doctor or support person. You can also call PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Hotline on 1300726306
We wish you well during your pregnancy and hope you have a memorable, enjoyable and healthy experience.