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Planning to get pregnant? 7 reasons you should see a specialist now

Dr. Akin-Onitolo A.

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We know many couples just have babies without prior planning, and for some, without intending to. But in certain conditions, it is necessary to inform your healthcare provider of your plan to have a baby before conceiving because of several reasons.

1.Diabetes

As much as possible, avoid getting pregnant without proper planning because of the high tendency to have a baby with malformations. Most diabetic drugs are dangerous to the foetus so you need to start using insulin and to have achieved good blood sugar levels. Check your eyes for retinopathy (a complication of diabetes that gradually leads to blindness), as well as other complications so that they can be adequately managed before you get pregnant; pregnancy can worsen already existing issues. Be careful about hypoglycaemic attacks because you may not notice the warning signs as easily as before. Plan ahead to deliver at a centre with good facilities for newborns because your baby would likely require specialist care and monitoring, babies of diabetic mothers often have sugar problems, respiratory difficulty or jaundice.

2. Epilepsy or seizure disorder

This is one condition that really needs specialist attention before, during and after pregnancy. Depending on your current treatment, your drug dose may be reduced, increased or changed to a safer alternative; many anti epileptic drugs cause malformations. Folic acid is necessary as well as vitamin K when delivery is approaching. Your baby would also require monitoring after birth for possible side effects of your drugs. Breastfeeding whilst on these medications has its implications, hence the need to see your healthcare provider.

3. Hypertension

Like Diabetes, you may need to stop some drugs identified as causes of congenital abnormalities and switch to safer ones. Your blood pressure should be checked regularly, and your growing baby monitored closely. It is best to have a healthy blood pressure before pregnancy and avoid high salt intake. There are other treatments that will be prescribed by your specialist.

4. Hypothyroidism

This condition causes high rates of miscarriage and stillbirth, as well as preterm labour and malformations in the baby. The abnormal low level of thyroid hormone is responsible for these effects. When pregnant, the dose of thyroid hormone you receive will be increased to accommodate your developing baby’s needs.

5. Phenylketonuria

It is an abnormality in the metabolism of amino acids, the small units of protein. The condition can lead to fetal abnormalities so it is important to see your specialist before getting pregnant.

6. Sickle cell disease

You may need to stop certain drugs, or take some specific tests and treatments before getting pregnant. But you will certainly need to continue folic acid, and malaria treatment throughout your pregnancy. Keep in mind that stress, excessive vomiting leading to dehydration can trigger crises and this can be fatal for your baby, so avoid this at all costs. When unavoidable, get professional help. You should also see your doctor to discuss your baby’s possible genotype.

7. When you’re older than 35 years

Because of the chance of losing your baby or developing deadly complications or having a baby with a syndrome and/or mental retardation, it is advised that you see your specialist if you are planning to be pregnant at the age of 35 or over.

 

Although planning your pregnancy is preferred, it still comes unexpectedly to some mothers. So it is advised that every female that is 15 to 49 years old should take folic acid  daily to prevent congenital abnormalities in their babies.

 

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Are you planning to get pregnant? Do you have any of the conditions mentioned? Tell us all about it. Cheers!

 

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Dr. Akin-onitolo A. is a graduate of the University of Lagos whose mission is to achieve the sustainable development goals (SDGs) using health promotion and improved health literacy. She is an MDCN (Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria) certified doctor who had her elective at King's College London. Hugely interested in travel, meeting people and generally being creative, reading and writing fiction are a few hobbies you could find her engaged in during her spare time. Catch up with her on Twitter @Akinonitolo and Instagram @t_onitolo