A significant amount of time and thought often goes in to how to ensure your baby is healthy and happy. Recently after having a particularly happy birth I ended up with a mum who was not so happy in the weeks after birth, I wondered how much time we spend focused on things that really don’t make a difference.
We all know that we need to eat a healthy diet, have light exercise during pregnancy, avoid a range of hazards and ensure you have a pregnancy care provider who is checking on your baby’s wellbeing. But what things really make a difference according to the evidence?
Pre-conception and genetics
Making sure the egg, sperm and the environment where baby develops is healthy is very important. Genetic aspects, such any inheritable conditions that ‘run’ in your family, are an important factor. Your age can impact on your baby as certain pregnancy and health problems are more common as you get older.
For best outcomes, before you think about having a baby, clean up your health as much as possible. A pre-conception check with your GP is a great idea and so are consultations with dieticians or other health care providers if you have particular issues.
Surprise baby? Don’t panic! Nature generally works with healthy baby to ensure it stays well. Where you are worried, talk to your midwife or doctor.
Whether you have had a baby before
Having your first baby is a particularly tough gig. It is important to recognise that you will experience life changing aspects to your health and to your life after the birth. If this is your first baby, having specific one on one support for the pregnancy, birth and until the baby is six weeks old is critical. Your mental wellbeing is as important as your physical well being. A range of more serious health issues from pre-eclampsia to postnatal depression – are less common in a second pregnancy.
While there’s no real solution regarding whether this is a first baby or not; remember if it is your first baby to ensure you are getting the recommended number of pregnancy visits and that you have support for after the birth.
Your care provider
The evidence is clear that different care providers equals different outcomes. It follows that if you have a baby in a hospital with a high caesarean section rate, then you are more likely to have a caesarean section. Research demonstrates that for both mother and baby, midwifery continuity of care with medical input from an obstetrician when needed is a safe option. The benefits are not just lower rates of intervention, but there are clear health benefits for baby, higher rates of breastfeeding, and improved mental health outcomes for mum.
Be informed. Do your research – make sure you know all the choices available to you. Don’t be fooled by thinking private hospitals are better – it is important to always know what services are offered for how long and whether your care provider and hospital offer the type of care you want.
How many babies you are having
Again, research is super clear on this point – the more babies the more strain on mum and more chance there is of some complexity. This is not to say that multiple births do not result in healthy baby and healthy mum, but it does mean that the multiple birth mother needs to take extra care of herself, and there is a need for extra care during pregnancy, birth and with the new babies.
When you discover you are carrying more than one baby seek out advice about the right care provider for you. Get more than one opinion if what you hear first time does not sound like the type of care you want.
Naturally the vague notion of your ‘overall health’ impacts on pregnancy birth and baby. But is it possible to quantify this risk? It is, but it is very difficult to do so. There is a range of pre-existing diseases and health conditions that can have anything from a large impact to zero impact on this important time as well as a host of other factors including environment, some substances you may come into contact with and more.
As a golden rule, where you know that there may be something in your health situation or history that may affect your baby, or you are on any regular medication, please consult your GP, midwife or health care professional as soon as you know you are pregnant. Indeed, talk to them when you decide on getting pregnant!
Plan ahead. Talk with the professionals whose task is to care for the health of you and your baby as soon as possible in your pregnancy journey and make a plan.
By Liz Wilkes, My Midwives