Key Issues When Planning A Pregnancy

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  • 0:07 What Is Pregnancy Planning?
  • 0:44 Medications & Supplements
  • 2:09 Medical Conditions
  • 3:47 Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • 4:55 Other Important Factors
  • 5:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
When planning a pregnancy, important things must be considered to ensure maximum safety of both mother and child. This includes taking an assessment of your medications, supplements, medical conditions, and habits.

What Is Pregnancy Planning?

There's a ton to consider when deciding whether or not you want to have children. Can you afford to properly raise a child? How many children do you want to have overall? Are you willing to sacrifice your goals and dreams for a child?

But there's more to look at than that; there's a set of factors that mothers in particular must address when planning a pregnancy. Pregnancy planning is a concept that encompasses setting goals and taking steps that set up the best possible environment for the fetus and mother and for the prevention of pregnancy-related problems. These issues will be the subject of our discussion in this lesson.

Medications & Supplements

One of the key issues to consider when planning a pregnancy is any medication or supplements you may or may not be taking. You're surely aware of all the commercials touting side effects ranging from sore throats and coughing to cancer and death. Lovely.

Well, the problem is that some medications can go from a mom's bloodstream to that of the baby's and negatively affect the fetus. Therefore, some medication can actually harm an unborn baby and cause birth defects or even miscarriages. Your doctor can help you figure out if a medication you need for something is potentially dangerous to the fetus.

Again, the reason medication taken by you can affect a growing baby is because a mother and her baby are connected anatomically and physiologically, and some drugs can cross from the mother's bloodstream to the unborn baby. A developing fetus is like any other developing and immature living organism; great care must be taken to preserve its life.

On the flip-side, there is the fact that when you're planning a pregnancy, you may actually want to take some supplements or medications to prevent problems. For instance, a doctor might recommend that a mother-to-be take folic acid, or vitamin B9, in order to help prevent a birth defect called spina bifida, a condition where the fetal spine fails to close.

Medical Conditions

Sort of related here is the issue of discussing any medical conditions you already have with your doctor if you're planning a pregnancy. This is because some types of medical conditions can increase the risk of complications to or from pregnancy. These conditions include:

  • Asthma
  • Hypertension, which is high blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Thyroid disease
  • Epilepsy

You may be wondering why or how these conditions affect pregnancy, and luckily we'll have time to discuss one of these in this lesson a bit more. Let's pick the last one, epilepsy. There are many things to consider when planning a pregnancy if a mother has epilepsy. Epilepsy, by the way, is a central nervous system condition where the brain experiences recurrent seizures.

Your brain is an electrical nerve center, a computer, which can sometimes go haywire. It's sort of like when a real computer starts doing odd things, like throwing hundreds of pop-ups on your screen for no reason, likely because some computer code went a bit crazy. These seizures can cause premature birth and injury to the fetus and even affect the heart rate of the unborn child. But the condition itself isn't the only thing to watch out for; anti-seizure medication may contribute to infertility and birth defects.

All of this is by no means trying to imply that people with epilepsy shouldn't be planning a pregnancy or should stop taking their medication without a doctor's approval. Quite the contrary. With proper planning and oversight by a doctor, most women who have epilepsy will have healthy babies.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Equally importantly, pregnancy planning involves the avoidance and cessation of other kinds of drugs - in other words, the cessation of any use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. The latter three are well-implicated in causing all sorts of problems for pregnant women and unborn children. Let's take a look at one of them in particular.

Alcohol use during a pregnancy is associated with fetal alcohol syndrome, a condition that causes mental and physical problems to a baby as a result of a mother drinking alcohol during her pregnancy. When a mother drinks alcohol, the alcohol goes into her bloodstream and then reaches the baby.

It's the same thing that happens with the medications I was talking about before. And just like some medications can harm an unborn child, so can drugs, like alcohol. Problems associated with this syndrome include:

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