Minimizing the Chance of Having a Baby with Problems

Minimizing the Chance of Having a Baby with Problems

There are ways in which you can minimize the chance of having a baby with problems, some of which involve taking steps before you become pregnant. This would obviously be worth considering if you have already had an affected child or if you have a family history that suggests your baby might be at risk. In these circumstances it would be a good idea to seek genetic counselling, which can be arranged through your GP.

— Make sure that you are eating well. This is generally held to mean cutting out, or at least down on, refined foods such as biscuits, cakes, sweets, high-fat foods like chips, and foods that contain large amounts of sugar, additives and artificial colourings. Eat fresh rather than manufactured foods, concentrating on meat, fish, eggs, cheese, wholegrains, pulses, nuts, fruit and vegetables.
— If you are a vegetarian make sure that you are taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
— Take a broad spectrum multivitamin and mineral supplement which includes 0.4 mg of folic acid. Folic acid should be included in a woman’s diet from the time she starts trying to conceive until at least 28 days of pregnancy (government guidelines suggest you should take it up until 12 weeks). This has been shown to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects in babies born to mothers who have already had one affected baby.
— Take vitamin E, 200-400 iu daily (it has been suggested that this amount be increased to 500-15,000 iu daily in women who have already had a child with an abnormality). Get your partner to start taking the multivitamin at least three months before a planned conception. There are specific pre-conception formulas for both men and women available.
— Get your blood tested before pregnancy to make sure that you are immune to rubella. Women who have been pregnant before will have had their blood tested already and will have been offered immunisation after birth if they were not immune.
— Both of you should take 25-50 mg elemental zinc daily. Try to cut out smoking and alcohol consumption. Substitute herbal or fruit teas for coffee and ordinary tea. Even one cup of coffee a day has been shown to reduce fertility and there is some question about whether caffeine is responsible for an increase in birth defects. Drink plenty of spring water.
— Avoid eating cheese made from unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses, cook-chill foods, manufactured pate and ready-prepared salads off the supermarket shelf as these can carry listeria bacteria which can be fatal in the unborn child. Be very careful about washing your hands after handling animals, and try to avoid handling cat litter trays. If unavoidable wear rubber gloves and use boiling water. Do not eat raw or undercooked meat. Wash your hands thoroughly after preparing meat.
— Stop any non-essential drugs and discuss the use of essential drugs with your GP or consultant.

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