Why is it that some women sail through the whole process of conception, pregnancy and childbirth, popping out progeny with seeming effortlessness, while others struggle every step of the way? Verne Maree reports.
You probably know someone who has tried and failed to conceive, suffered one or more miscarriages, or battled with bleeding, amniotic fluid loss or birth defects – or with diseases such as gestational diabetes, hypertension and the potentially fatal pre-eclampsia. Perhaps you’ve had problems yourself. Fortunately, Singapore’s medical community includes a host of great family doctors and medical specialists with experience in all these areas.
Pregnancy-related medical woes don’t disappear like magic at the moment of childbirth, of course. Good news is that plastic surgeons, aesthetic doctors, dermatologists, urologists and vascular surgeons are all available to help you overcome any lingering side-effects that may include deflated breasts, jelly-belly, stretch marks, varicose veins, prolapsed organs, a compromised pelvic floor and a stretched vagina.
As for the longer-term fallout that parenthood can bring – sleepless nights, less sex, having to buy hundreds of birthday gifts for your child’s class-mates, coping with sulky teenagers, the crippling costs of tertiary education – you may be on your own.
On a slightly divergent note, some women report unexpected and even rather weird physical changes – for example, straight hair becoming curly, or feet becoming bigger. Before she had a child, my sister Dale’s feet were a full size smaller than my sevens (all right, seven and a half!); now my galumphing shoes fit her perfectly. Good thing we live in different countries! Her mind has pretty much gone, too; pregnancy hormones turned her into a goldfish, and she no longer even pretends to remember anything, including birthdays. (On the plus side, she’s endearingly unable to bear a grudge.)
DR KELLY LOI is a fertility specialist who has been running her own obstetrics and gynaecology practice in Singapore for more than 15 years – and that includes a pregnancy clinic providing preconception health screening, fertility investigations and treatment, plus antenatal care and delivery.
Why would a couple go for pre-pregnancy health screening?
Identifying any medical issue early on means we can take preventive steps, making sure the couple are in good health and increasing their chances for the best outcome – the delivery of a healthy baby. We start by taking a thorough medical history; that’s an integral part of the screening process.
After that, basic tests include a pelvic exam and ultrasound to detect any problems with the uterus or ovaries, such as fibroids or cysts. A Pap smear is done to determine any abnormalities of the cervix, and we also do a series of blood tests. In addition, fertility investigations may be useful for couples who have been trying to conceive for a while. The father-to-be may also consider a sperm analysis, as about half of all infertility cases are related to sperm quality.
8 Tips for a healthy pregnancy
Previously a paediatrician in both India and the UK, DR CHARU NARAYANAN is one of the team of GPs at Complete Health care International (CHI). Though a healthy pregnancy is determined by a healthy egg and sperm, she says, there’s a lot you can do optimise your baby’s health and your own.
1) Eat sensibly
- Follow a balanced diet that contains all the important food groups: fruit, vegetables including leafy types, complex carbohydrates, protein sources (eggs, lean meat, poultry, nuts and seeds, pulses) along with some fats and oils.
- Observing food hygiene during preparation, by washing fruit and vegetables and cooking eggs, meat and chicken well before you eat them, will reduce the risk of food poisoning.
Regular exercise of moderate intensity – like brisk walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates – brings all the benefits that come with improved mood, sleep and circulation. Do what feels comfortable for you! – but do consult your doctor if you have a specific health condition or it has been a complicated pregnancy.
Put your feet up in the day to rest fatigued legs and relieve swollen ankles. Allow yourself at least eight hours sleep at night.
Up to 200mg a day is considered safe. Your Starbucks tall latte or cappucino contains 150mg, a mug of instant contains 100mg and a cup of tea has about 75mg. Smaller amounts are found in chocolate (about 21mg in 50g of dark chocolate) and in cola drinks (about 24mg per can).
5) Smoking and alcohol
Avoid both completely. Smoking – including passive smoking – affects the foetal development and can trigger premature birth. Alcohol, too, has been linked to developmental abnormalities and low birth weight.
6) Prenatal vitamins
Take a daily prenatal supplement. Apart from a variety of important vitamins and minerals, including iron, iodine and calcium, it should contain 400mcg of valuable folate (also known as vitamin B9, or folic acid in its synthetic form) to support healthy nerve and spinal cord development in the baby.
Discuss any medication with a doctor. For occasional pain relief, paracetamol is considered safe.
8) Accident prevention
Listen to your body when exercising – ligament injury occurs easily in pregnancy, due to hormone-induced laxity. The knees and hips also have to bear a much greater burden, and backache is commoner. When driving, secure your seatbelt properly, placing the lap belt under the bump and across the upper thighs.
This is an extract of an article that first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Expat Living Magazine. For the full article, you can order a back issue in our Shop or Subscribe so you never miss an issue!
For more articles like this, head to our Mums & Babies section