Pregnancy and Maternal Health

Pregnancy and Maternal Health

Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman’s life and she deserves all the attention and care she can get. Just the thought of having a baby introduces a woman of to a range of new emotions she may have never experienced before. From joy, excitement and anticipation to anxiety, stress and worry, she goes through it all.

According to UNICEF, only 47 per cent of women in India have an institutional delivery and 53 percent have their births assisted by a skilled mid-wife or attendant. Almost 50% of pregnant women get less than three check-ups and only about 47% Indian women get iron and folic acid for at least 100 days during pregnancy.

It is estimated that about 25% of global maternal deaths (death during pregnancy or within 42 days of childbirth) occur in India. Pregnancy is a complex natural phenomenon and a large number of complications can be prevented with adequate care. Having a safe and healthy pregnancy is simple to achieve by ensuring the following:

  • Start eating nutritious food and adopt healthy habits when planning to conceive and continue the same throughout pregnancy.
  • Get all your tests and vaccinations done in time.
  • Ask your doctor for iron and calcium supplements and eat protein rich foods during the second trimester.
  • Aim for an ideal pregnancy weight gain of 10-11kg.
  • Relax, be happy and stay positive.

Habits that affect fetal growth

While most women are careful not to indulge in smoking or drinking during pregnancy, many day-to-day habits are overlooked:

  • Caffeine: Avoid excessive caffeine (present in coffee, tea, chocolate, colas, some painkillers, and allergy medication) as it affects absorption of calcium in the body. Studies have also linked caffeine to premature labor, miscarriage and low- weight babies.
  • Passive smoking: Pregnant women who are exposed to tobacco smoke from other people’s smoking are at increased risk of development problems in the baby, miscarriage and other complications.
  • Fast food: Eating fast food, sugary and fatty food frequently causes the mother to gain extra weight and increases her risk of hypertension, high cholesterol and gestational diabetes.
  • Exhaustion: A pregnant woman needs rest. Studies have shown that long working hours coupled with lack of sleep and resting time can have a negative impact on baby’s development.

Possible complications during pregnancy

It is important for an expectant couple to be aware of the complications of pregnancy, which are discussed below:

Gestational diabetes: A temporary rise in blood glucose levels that affects about 18% of all pregnant women in the second or third trimester of pregnancy. Overweight, family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, age>25 years and excess amniotic fluid are some of the known causes. Treatment includes consistent monitoring of blood sugar levels and dietary changes.

Thyroid:  Untreated thyroid condition can adversely affect development of fetus. Low thyroid (hypothyroidism) in mother can cause mental retardation in the infant. If you have thyroid, do not stop taking medication, instead share your condition with your obstetrician.

Asthma: In women who already have asthma, symptoms may get worse during the last two trimesters. Keeping your asthma in control is the best way to ensure there is no harm to the baby. Consult your obstetrician before making any changes in your medication.

Epilepsy: Anti-epileptic medication is known to increase the risk of developmental defects and heart abnormalities in the baby. Advice includes change-over to a milder medication, folic acid supplementation before pregnancy and regular scans to detect any developmental problems in the baby. Also, family needs to be prepared for any emergency.

Ectopic pregnancy: Occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies need to be terminated and can be emotionally devastating for a mother.

How to be a responsible mother

Parenting is a deeply enriching experience but can also be frustrating at times. While no one can prepare a would-be parent to perfect the art of parenting, some simple decisions can help you foster a healthy and fulfilling relationship with your baby. For example, breastfeeding helps develop a special bond between mother and baby while also protecting the baby from a host of infections.

Having a child requires commitment and the willingness to take on additional responsibility from both parents. Spending quality time with the child, providing nutritious foods and taking care of his or her emotional needs is the responsibility of every parent. Do remember that even babies a few months old can sense conflict in the home environment and may become edgy.

A mother’s touch, her behavior, anxiety, how she deals with situations, hygiene – everything has an impact on the growing child. A mother is like the guiding force in a child’s life – wherever she takes him, he will follow. Therefore, a mother needs to tread carefully.