Preconception care

Because of improvements in our medical understanding, today many women may start preparing their bodies (eating a healthy diet and doing moderate exercise) before pregnancy to give their children the best possible start. Many women now take folic acid supplements before conception and in the first trimester, to protect against neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in the fetus.

Couples planning a baby may adjust their lifestyles to improve their chances of conceiving. For example, in women, stopping smoking and cutting down on alcohol, caffeine, and even stress are recommended. Men may also be advised to cut down on alcohol and smoking because it can affect the quality of their sperm.

Advances mean that many women delay childbearing. A woman's age (too young or too old) and the spacing between children (too close together or too far apart) may impact on her and her child's health.

TIMELINE

Medical advances gathered pace in the second half of the 20th century. Notable advances before then include the first cesarean section—performed from ancient times in India, Rome, and Greece; the use of forceps to assist labor from the 17th century; the invention of the stethoscope in 1895; and the use of antibiotics from the 1930s, which massively cut maternal death rates.


1952 APGAR SCORING:

An examination carried out within five minutes of birth, this assesses the newborn's “Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration”, or its skin color, heart-rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and breathing. The score indicates any need for medical help.



1960 FEMALE "PILL”:

The oral contraceptive pill gave women unprecedented control over their fertility, and has helped reduce unwanted pregnancies.


1966 REAL TIME ULTRASOUND:

This revolutionized scanning as the fetus's motion and life could be observed.


1973 SCANNING MEASUREMENTS:

Measuring certain aspects of the fetus in utero were used to give an indication of age, size, and weight.


1975 HOME PREGNANCY TEST INTRODUCED:

Available over the counter, this test gives instant results.


1959 FETAL ULTRASOUND SCANNING:

High-frequency sound waves were first used to measure a fetus's head, giving an idea of size and growth.


11962 HEEL PRICK TEST:

This newborn blood test checks for rare disorders, such as phenylketonuria, which can benefit from early diagnosis and treatment.


11968 FETAL CARDIOTOCOGRAPH:

Now, fetal heart rates could be monitored electronically to tell if a baby was in distress during labor.


11975 SCANNING FOR SPINA BIFIDA:

The first case of ultrasound detection of this neural tube defect, leading to a termination of pregnancy.


Premature babies have much better survival rates now, thanks to expert care in special baby units

Newborn measurements allow health professionals to assess where a baby sits in the normal range.

Hearing tests can catch problems early, since hearing problems impact on speech and language development.

  • Contact
  • Category: Pregnancy and childbirth