Pregnancy – a time to prepare:
- Baby changes family’s life
- Doubts are natural
- Mood changes
- Mother’s fears
- The health centre antenatal clinic
- Your first visit
- Later visits
- Special care
- Clinic for fathers, too
Conception is possible about two weeks after menstruation, when ovulation takes place. For about 24 hours the female ovum is capable of being fertilised by male sperm. This sperm can live in the woman’s body for 2-4 days. To calculate the expected date of delivery (your EDD): add 9 months and 7 days to the date when you last began your period.
This “birthday” is not entirely accurate, but most babies are born within a week on either side of the EDD. If your menstrual cycle is longer than 28 days, conception probably took place more than two weeks after the start of your last period, and the baby will therefore be born ‘late’.
The male sperm determines the sex of your baby. Men have two types of spermatozoa, some of which produce girls, others boys. Sometimes some of the man’s spermatozoa are more virile, so he fathers all girls or all boys.
The birth of a new baby means a big change in the life of every member of the family. It quite frequently happens that parents expecting their first baby do not fully realise that the baby will to begin with demand every moment of their attention. Everything they think, say and do will revolve round the baby.
Pregnancy gives you time to prepare for this. You will have to decide where the baby is going to sleep. There are clothes, a cot and other things you’ll need, to buy or borrow. Who is going to look after the baby, and how? All in all pregnancy gives you a chance to get in the right frame of mind to receive the baby. Becoming a father or mother brings responsibility, worries and fears. It is nevertheless an experience that is infinitely rich -probably one of the most rewarding in your whole life.
However pleased you are to be pregnant, you are sure to have your doubts from time to time. All of a sudden you may be gripped by fear. You wish you could call the whole thing off, sidestep the enormous commitment of being responsible for the life of another. All expectant mums and dads have thoughts like this, and the more you can discuss them with someone you trust, the quicker you can forget them. There’s no need to feel guilty about having such thoughts. They won’t harm the baby, and thinking things over helps people to mature as mothers and fathers.
Most women claim they have never in their lives felt better than they do while they’re pregnant, and everything goes well. Even so they may be vulnerable and sensitive. The first pregnancy in particular means a considerable change in a woman’s life: motherhood is a major challenge. One day she was just a girl, the next she must assume the role of an adult woman. A change of life such as this means learning new attitudes and skills, and it takes a lot of energy.
During pregnancy a lot of changes take place in the mother’s body, and her hormones cause some sudden shifts of mood. She may find herself crying at the slightest provocation, get depressed and offended over quite tri- vial things. She also needs more assurance than usual of her partner’s love and support.
The growing baby takes a lot of the mother’s strength, so she needs plenty of rest. Pregnancy is, however, a natural state, not an illness. So there is no reason to curl up into a ball and get depressed. It helps to talk, to keep suitably busy, go for a walk, listen to music, etc.
Many things may seem frightening during pregnancy. Will I be a good mot- her? Can I be sure my baby will be normal? What if I’m unable to care for it and love it? And what if it does nothing but cry -what do I do then? Can we afford it? Will I still be sexually attractive with a huge tummy and after the baby’s born? The mother herself knows that some of her fears sound stupid and even ridiculous to others. But she may be deeply offended if others fail
to take her seriously. She needs encouragement and tenderness so that she can in turn be tender to her child.
The health centre aims to promote the health of mot her and baby and to prepare the family for the delivery and to welcome the baby. It is important to contact the clinic as early as possible. Even if you decide to consult a private doctor during pregnancy, you can still join in the antenatal classes at the clinic and consult the health nurse.
The purpose of all the examinations made at the antenatal clinic and the many questions you will be asked is to assess your general state of health and to pinpoint any possible risks. On your first visit the nurse will do a blood test (to establish your blood group, haemoglobin count, Rhesus blood group and to check for venereal disease), take a sample of urine (to check your albumen, glucose and bacteria count), take your blood pressure and check your height and weight. Some health centres also do an AIDS test with the mother’s consent. These tests are usually done by the health nurse. On your first visit to the doctor he or she will do an internal examination to check that the uterus corresponds to the estimated state of pregnancy and to determine the position of the uterus. Most mothers visit the doctor three times during pregnancy. To begin with they visit the health nurse about once a month, then from the 28th week onwards once a fortnight and from the 35th week onwards once a week.
At your second and subsequent visits to the antenatal clinic you will be weighed, have your blood pressure checked and a urine specimen taken. Your haemoglobin count will be checked once a month. Your weekly weight gain will be checked, because if your weight goes up too much or too little, it may be a sign of some complication. Keep a watch out for any swelling. The health nurse will also listen to the baby’s heart and check its position. If necessary the doctor or health nurse will send you to the hospital antenatal clinic for further examination.
Special care may be prescribed during pregnancy if
- you have a long-term, chronic illness
- you are expecting twins (multiple birth)
- you are under 18 or over 35 and expecting your first baby
- you are over 38 and are expecting your second or subsequent baby
- your blood pressure is high
- you have itching and yellow skin
- you contract German measles (rubella) in the early stages of pregnancy
- you have an infection of the vagina.
Both mothers and fathers are welcome at the clinic. The antenatal classes are intended for mothers and fathers alike. It’s good for the father to know what instructions his wife has been given, to prepare for the coming baby and to acquire the necessary facts and skills. If possible you should start attending antenatal classes in about the 20th week and continue once a week for at least six weeks. Almost all hospitals allow fathers to be present at the birth.
Don’t hesitate to ask the doctor and health nurse any questions you may have, and to discuss such things as depression, family problems and fears. They may, if they think it’s necessary, refer you to a welfare worker, psychologist, specialist doctor, etc.