The ultimate guide to planning a pregnancy
So, you’ve decided to start your family. Well, congratulations! But before you get on with your journey, we’d like to tell you that having a baby isn’t as simple as getting intimate a few times a month. There’s a lot more you need to do to ensure a healthy, happy pregnancy.
That’s why we’ve curated a nifty guide to planning a pregnancy with the aid of Dr (Prof) Surveen Ghumman Sindhu, who is the director and head of IVF & Reproductive Medicine Centre, MAX Multispeciality Hospitals at Panchsheel, Saket, Patparganj, Delhi and Gurgaon. She is also a professor at the School Of Health Sciences at Ansal University.
This is what she suggests your next steps should be if you’re planning a pregnancy.
1. Look into your medical history
Before you ditch contraception, you must look into your medical history and correct anything and everything that can negatively impact your pregnancy. Says Dr Surveen: “You need to get screened for diseases like diabetes, thyroid, and hypertension. Along with that you also need to figure out whether you’re taking any medications that might impact pregnancy because they need to be changed before you start planning for a baby.”
Talking specifically about female health, she suggests women pay attention to their periods. “She needs to look at her own history as far as her periods are concerned, whether they are regular or irregular because that implies she may have a problem in conceiving,” says Dr Surveen, who has 30 years of clinical experience.
She also suggests stopping homeopathic medicines or herbal supplements, stating: “In the first trimester, the foetus is developing organs, and you really don’t know what these medications contain and how they can impact your baby in the womb.”
2. Fix your lifestyle
For starters, you need to give up smoking and drinking if you want a healthy pregnancy. Both these habits hurt both fertility and pregnancy, suggests the expert.
You also need to break up with stress. “Tackle sources of severe stress in your life before you get conceive, because pregnancy is going to be an added stress,” suggests Dr Surveen.
3. Ensure you are up to date on all your vaccines
While getting yourself vaccinated after Covid-19 is a necessity, especially if you want to get pregnant, Dr Surveen also wants women to be inoculated against other diseases that can potentially impact their baby. “Women should be vaccinated against rubella, measles, and mumps,” she says.
4. Look into your family history for genetic problems
“If there is a family history of thalassemia, then the couple needs to be aware of it and get checked themselves. In case, either or both partners is a carrier, they need to have genetic counselling,” explains Dr Surveen.
5. Consult an expert for any reproductive health problems you may have
If you have been suffering from a gynaecological problem, now is the time to consult an expert so that you know your best options for conceiving. “If you have PCOS, ovarian cysts, have had a surgery for fibroids, infection in the pelvis that might have blocked your tubes, or if you have had a prior cancer treatment—you need to take a consultation before you get on with the motions,” suggests Dr Surveen.
Men with a genetic predisposition to infertility should straight away get their semen tested under the guidance of a fertility expert, she adds.
“The couple should also be aware that fertility falls after the age of 35, so if the female partner is reaching that age—or has crossed it—she needs to know what her ovarian reserve is,” explains the doctor.
6. Know when to visit a fertility expert
If you have any of the above-mentioned conditions, then your fertility journey needs to start with a visit to a fertility expert.
However, if everything seems to be in order with your reproductive health, Dr Surveen suggests visiting a fertility expert if you have been unable to get pregnant after trying for a year, despite timing your intercourse properly. If you’re over 35, you should seek guidance after six months of trying to conceive.
“You can also visit a gynaecologist for pre-conception counselling, which typically revolves around genetic history, prenatal supplements, the right kind of diet, and lifestyle changes,” she adds.
7. You also need to get a few baseline tests done
“Get your haemoglobin, blood sugar, thyroid, and prolactin levels checked before you start planning a pregnancy,” suggests Dr Surveen, adding: “If you are over 35 and/or have irregular periods, get the AMH test done to check your ovarian reserve.” If the test indicates a low ovarian reserve, don’t wait and watch—consider it to be a fertility emergency and visit an expert immediately.
“Men also need to get their semen tested. If there is something in the semen which is not okay, but the woman undergoes all the tests—then all your efforts will go to waste. They should also get a urological check-up for any local problems that they might have,” she suggests.
A few diagnostic screenings, beyond the basic blood tests, are also important. “A baseline ultrasound can tell you a lot of things like what is the state of the ovaries, whether you are polycystic or not, if you have fibroids, ovarian cysts, or any kind of pathology in the tubes, and whether your uterus lining is healthy enough to take a pregnancy,” concludes Dr. Surveen.
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