Getting pregnant and how to prepare for it

The first week of pregnancy can be confusing. Usually by the time you find out you are pregnant, you are already at least four weeks into your pregnancy.

It is hard to know exactly when your egg was fertilised but the start of your menstrual cycle is very clear.

For this reason, doctors calculate your due date by using the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). Still confused? Don’t worry.

All you need to know is that the first two weeks are counted to let your doctor make the best estimate of your due date.

Your pregnancy will usually last for 40 weeks but some babies may want to come out at 38 weeks while other wait until 42 weeks.

Your doctor will not let you go more than 42 weeks. Now that you know how your due date is calculated, let’s see how your body starts changing.

How is my body changing?

During this time, your body is preparing for ovulation. Ovulation occurs when an egg is released from your ovary, which is usually 12 to 14 days after the first day of your period.

Hormones will now be circulating to prepare your egg for fertilisation. Your breasts may become swollen and tender. You may also experience abdominal cramps.

These are all common signs of your menstrual period. You should plan to fertilise your egg in about two more weeks. Mark your calendar and let your partner know.

What should I be concerned about?

Absolutely nothing! Just maintain a healthy diet and take your prenatal vitamins, especially folic acid.

Folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects (birth defects caused by the incomplete development of the brain or spinal cord), such as spina bifida.

The recommended dose at this stage is about 400 micrograms a day. The dose may be higher for women with a history of spina bifida.

What should I tell my doctor?

Tell your doctor what prescription drugs, non-prescription (OTC) drugs or herbal supplements you are currently taking as these may potentially harm your baby.

If there are any prescription drugs you must take regularly, you should not stop taking them without consulting your doctor first.

Your doctor will need to weigh the potential benefits and risks of stopping your medications.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Can I keep taking my prescription and over-the-counter medication while getting pregnant?
  • What should I do before getting pregnant?
  • Are there any vaccinations I need before getting pregnant?

Tests you must be aware of

To prepare your body for your baby, your doctor may request the following tests:

  • Pap smear: Helps detect any reasons that may affect your chances of conceiving.
  • Genetic tests: Helps detect possible genetic diseases that may be passed to your baby – Sickle Cell Anaemia, Thalassemia and Tay-Sachs disease.
  • Blood tests: Detects STDs or immunity to Rubella and Chickenpox. This will determine if you need treatment or vaccinations before getting pregnant.

How to stay safe and healthy while pregnant

When you’re pregnant, your immune system will not be as strong as before, leaving you more prone to infections.

You might want to talk to your doctor about what vaccinations are safe for you. Here are some you may consider or avoid:

  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccines

Measles is a viral infection. Some signs and symptoms include mild fever, cough, runny nose followed by a spotted red rash after a couple of days.

Mumps is also a contagious viral infection that causes the salivary glands to swell.

If you are infected with either during pregnancy, the risk of a miscarriage is high.

The rubella virus, also called German measles, presents flu-like symptoms often followed by a rash. Up to 85% of babies of moms who contract it during the first trimester develop serious birth defects like hearing loss and intellectual disabilities.

This vaccine is not safe during pregnancy. Usually, you need to wait one to three months after receiving the MMR vaccine before getting pregnant. Please consult your doctor.

  • Chickenpox vaccine

Chickenpox is an extremely contagious viral disease that causes fever and an uncomfortable, itchy rash.

About 2% of babies of women who developed chickenpox during the first five months of pregnancy have birth defects, including malformed and paralysed limbs.

A woman who develops chickenpox around the time of delivery can also pass a life-threatening form of the infection to her baby.

This vaccine is not safe during pregnancy. It is important to check with your doctor before getting pregnant.

  • Flu shot

It is recommended by the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to get the flu shot when you’re pregnant. The flu shot is made of dead virus and will not harm your baby. You should avoid the nasal spray flu vaccine called FluMist, which is made of live viruses.

If you get any type of flu while pregnant, you’re more likely to develop serious complications.

One such complication is pneumonia, which is potentially life threatening and may also increase your risk of preterm labour. You’re also at risk of flu-related complications during the postpartum period.

The flu vaccine is usually safe during pregnancy. There’s evidence that getting a flu shot during pregnancy will guarantee your baby some protection after birth.

Your baby may receive some antibodies from you during pregnancy. If you’re immune, your newborn is less likely to be exposed to the flu.

This article first appeared in hellodoktor.com and was reviewed by Dr Duyen Le. The Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.