Pregnancy Health (cont.)

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Pregnancy Prevention

Contraception is the term used for preventing pregnancy. There are many ways to prevent pregnancy, but none of them is 100% effective except not having sexual relations (abstinence). The following currently used methods of contraception can vary widely in their effectiveness:

  • Sterilization - Male (vasectomy) or female (tubal ligation, tubal implant, Essure sterilization)
  • Hormonal contraceptives - Birth control pills , birth control patches, birth control vaginal ring
  • Intra-uterine device (IUD) or intra-uterine system (Mirena)
  • Implanon (implant)
  • Diaphragm
  • Cervical caps
  • Condoms
  • Spermicides
  • Coitus interruptus - Withdrawal by the male before climax
  • Rhythm method - Not having sex during the time when is woman is most likely to be fertile
  • Emergency contraception

Pregnancy Prognosis

Many events determine the outcome of a pregnancy.

  • Maternal weight gain: The amount of weight a woman gains when pregnant can be important in predicting a normal pregnancy.
    • Too much weight gain puts the woman who is pregnant at risk for diabetes and hypertension, and it may increase the chance for needing a cesarean birth.
    • Too little weight gain puts the baby at risk for growth restriction and the mother at risk for anemia, nutritional deficiencies, and osteoporosis.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Even if the woman who is pregnant experiences what seems like an abnormal amount of nausea and vomiting (morning sickness), it probably will not affect the baby's health, particularly if the woman is still gaining weight at the expected rate.
  • Maternal diabetes (types 1 and 2): If the woman who is pregnant has diabetes or develops diabetes during pregnancy, it can cause early labor, birth defects, and very large babies.
  • Low or high red blood cell counts: The normal red blood cell count range varies slightly between laboratories, but is generally 4.2 - 5.9 million red cells per microliter. The risk of having a baby prematurely is increased if the woman's blood count is low (anemia). Low blood counts also put her at risk of needing a transfusion after delivery. If the woman's blood count is too high (polycythemia), her baby may be smaller than expected.
  • Maternal obesity: A person with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 is considered obese. If a woman who is pregnant is obese and has diabetes, her baby is three times more likely to have a birth defect. If she is obese but does not have diabetes, the risk of birth defects is not increased.
  • Maternal age: If the woman who is pregnant is older than 35 years, her baby has a higher risk of birth defects and complications. The focus of genetic screening is to enable the woman to understand any problems her fetus or infant may have. There is a 2% to 3% rate of major birth defects in this population.
  • Folic Acid Deficiency: A pregnancy which is deficient in the nutrient folic acid, also known as folate, could lead to neural tube defects in a fetus. Neural tube defects are malformations of the brain and spinal cord which typically occur with in the first few weeks of pregnancy; therefore, folic acid supplements should be taken prior to conception and during the course of pregnancy. It is recommended all non-pregnant women take a daily supplement with 400mg of folate and pregnant women take a supplement with 600mg of folate.
  • DHA Deficiency: During pregnancy, a diet which is deficient in the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) could lead to inadequate development of the eyes, brain, and central nervous system of a fetus. It is recommended that pregnant and lactating women consume 300mg DHA per day, which can be found in animal meats, fish, eggs, and vegetable oils.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acid Deficiency: Having an Omega-3 deficiency during pregnancy can be harmful to the mother and baby. Omega-3's are polyunsaturated fats that support the growth and development of a fetus and help reduce the risks of pregnancy complications. It is recommended women consume 300mg of Omega-3's daily during the course of pregnancy, which can be found in cold water fish, eggs, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.

Author and Editor

Author: Suzanne R Trupin, MD

Editor: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD

REFERENCE: UpToDate. Patient information: Morning sickness (The Basics).


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/9/2013

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Pregnancy - Describe Your Experience Question: Please describe usual or unusual experiences you had with your pregnancy, food cravings, morning sickness, edema (etc.)
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