PREGNANCY COUNSELLING

Dr Alexander's long term experience allows him to look after both low risk and high risk pregnancies. That is why he only delivers babies at The Mater Mothers Hospital.

Pregnancy Counselling or planning can sometimes be a good idea. Discussing your plans with Dr Alexander prior to becoming pregnant can optimise your baby’s health.

Although many women have normal pregnancies, pre-planning with Dr Alexander improves the chances of a smooth pregnancy and a healthy baby.

The planning process

  • Helps create a healthy environment for the fetus,

  • Can prevent birth defects as well as other pregnancy related problems.

What is Involved in Pregnancy Planning

Pre-pregnancy counselling is conducted before you conceive, and is beneficial for the mother as well as the baby during the term of pregnancy.

It helps in checking for

  • possible risk factors or pre-existing diseases which may affect the pregnancy

  • assessing you for any illness

  • allows time to resolve any medical issues before you become pregnant.

Pre-pregnancy counselling and care will help you to become physically healthy and emotionally strong before you enter into the phase of pregnancy.

What Is Pregnancy Counselling?

Some of the issues addressed by Dr Alexander in pregnancy Counselling include:

  • Medical conditions: A thorough medical examination before pregnancy helps in diagnosing any medical conditions that may affect the mother and baby such as diabetes, high blood pressure, anaemia, kidney disorders, thyroid diseases, and heart problems. Your physician will advise you on certain measures to control them.

  • Family health history: Inform Dr Alexander about the presence of hereditary medical conditions and multiple births in the family.

  • Reproductive history: You doctor will discuss your menstrual history, use of contraceptives, any previous sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections and Pap test results.

  • Infections and vaccinations: During pregnancy, the mother will be more susceptible to infections that can cause serious birth defects or illness in the baby. Tests are done to determine immunity against diseases such as measles and chickenpox. If the expecting mother lacks antibodies against these diseases, then the doctor will advise vaccination before pregnancy.

  • Immunization: If the mother is a carrier of hepatitis-B virus, blood tests will be done to identify the virus and the child will be vaccinated at birth. Vaccination protects the foetus from hepatitis-B infections.

  • Medications: Women who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) will be advised to take certain medications during pregnancy to decrease the risk of the foetus becoming infected with HIV.

  • Hereditary disorders: In women with a family history of hereditary disorders such as haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia, cystic fibrosis, and thalassemia, the chances of a child developing these conditions is increased. Therefore, before planning for pregnancy, Dr Alexander may suggest both mother and father undergo certain tests to identify these diseases.

  • Diet: Practicing a healthy diet is very important before pregnancy. Dr Alexander may suggest changes in your diet and including supplements such as prenatal vitamins and folic acid. Dr Alexander will also advise to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs as they may affect the baby in harmful ways.

  • Weight: It is always better to have an ideal weight before you conceive. Gaining weight if you are underweight will reduce the risk of having a low birth-weight baby, and reducing weight if you are overweight will prevent the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.

  • Workplace and home environment: Dr Alexander will discuss potential hazards to conception or maintaining a pregnancy, such as exposure to lead or certain toxic solvents, radiation and cat faeces.

  • Lifestyle: The effect of certain habits like alcohol consumption, smoking and use of recreational drugs on pregnancy will be discussed. You and/or your partner may be advised to stop these habits for a healthy pregnancy.

  • Exercise: Inform Dr Alexander about the type of exercises you perform or if you don't exercise. Based on this, you may be advised to continue normal exercises during pregnancy until Dr Alexander suggests otherwise.

Older Women Counselling

Advice for older women: Women older than 35 years of age will be advised on the risks of

  • infertility,

  • abnormalities in the child and

  • pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage and labour problems.

Possible Recommendations

Dr Alexander may also recommend:

  • Physical examination of your abdomen, heart, breasts, thyroid and lungs

  • Pap smear and pelvic examination

  • Lab tests to screen for hepatitis, HIV, rubella, syphilis and other conditions

  • Chart menstrual cycles to monitor ovulation and determine the most favourable time to get pregnant

  • Advise appropriate vaccinations against rubella or chickenpox, and recommend delay in conception for a month

  • Conduct genetic counselling for older mothers or those with a risk of hereditary diseases to help you understand the chances of birth defects or intellectual disability in the child.

  • Prenatal vitamins: You should start taking folic acid supplements before you conceive, as folic acid reduces the chances of neural tube defects in your baby.

Reducing the risk factors

Where Risk Factors are identified some may not be controlled.

If you are suffering from a medical condition, Dr Alexander can guide you with changes you need to make in your diet, medication, or other areas that will keep the disease in check.

You may be encouraged to lose weight prior to becoming pregnant. Dr Alexander may suggest folic acid supplements which have shown to prevent neural tube defects ( spina bifida ).

As illegal drug use may affect the emotional and functional development of a baby, you should totally avoid them before and during pregnancy. A serious effect of consuming alcohol during pregnancy is foetal alcohol syndrome. So, women should stop drinking alcohol if they are planning a pregnancy.

Some of the necessary dietary habits include using washed and properly cooked vegetables and avoiding certain kinds of fish (shark, swordfish) with high mercury levels. Care should also be taken to avoid exposure to toxic agents such as lead, mercury and radiation. Cats using a litter box can also be a source of infection, so have someone else empty the litter box during this time.

Preconception Genetic Screening

A preconception carrier test lets you know whether you and/or your partner are carriers of a disease, and helps you to make important pregnancy-related decisions.

If you are a carrier, you may decide to get pregnant with the option of considering prenatal diagnosis (diagnosis of abnormalities), use In vitro fertilization or even choose not to become pregnant.

Genetic Carrier Screening

Preconception Carrier Screening is a screening option, available for a woman planning to become pregnant, that allows her doctor to identify conditions that have the potential to adversely impact the health of her fetus (developing baby) in the future.

This is done at a point in time when the woman can have the widest range of personal and reproductive choices and helps to predict the possibility of having a child with a genetic disorder.

What Happens With Screening Tests

The two components are:

  • Genetic counselling and

  • Laboratory testing of blood or saliva.,

A genetic counsellor goes through your family medical history, which helps to determine if your baby is likely to have a genetic disorder based on the following:

  • DNA Analysis

  • A history of genetic disorders runs in your family

  • You have a genetic disorder

  • You already have a child with a genetic disorder

  • Your race or ethnicity