Smoking and Pregnancy

Smoking and Pregnancy

Studies conducted world-wide over the past 25 years confirm that cigarette smoking has a marked effect on the outcome of pregnancy for mothers and babies. These findings were consistent, even after allowing for a range of biological, behavioural, socio-economic and psychological factors as well as the influence of alcohol, caffeine, stress and maternal nutrition. The association between maternal smoking, low birth weight babies, infant death and ill-health are well established, as are the risks to the mother’s own health. Even mothers exposed to passive smoking delivered lighter babies. However, this data demonstrates that smoking in pregnancy presents more serious implications than just a small baby. The overall view obtained from the research shows a significantly increased risk of the following: • Raised blood pressure • Miscarriage • Premature delivery • Premature rupture of membranes • Stillbirth • Neonatal death (death in the first month) • Perinatal mortality (death in the first year) • Perinatal morbidity (impaired health and development throughout childhood) • Underweight and underdeveloped baby at birth Some mid- to long-term effects of smoking include bronchitis and respiratory illnesses as well as ear, nose and throat infections. If breastfeeding, beware that nicotine can enter your milk. The research done on alcohol intake is less conclusive. Available evidence does not support absolute abstinence from alcohol in pregnancy, but recommends that consumption should be limited to a glass of wine once or twice a...
What tests are used to detect abnormalities in the baby?

What tests are used to detect abnormalities in the baby?

Foetal movements: It is normal practice for some obstetricians to ask mothers to record their baby’s movements or “kicks”. Once the baby has kicked ten times the mother can stop the count for that day. If less than ten kicks are noted, she should notify her doctor or hospital. Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) Test AFP is a protein normally made by baby and passed in small amounts into the mothers’ blood. A higher or lower than normal level indicates the baby may be at risk of Downs syndrome, anencephaly or spina bifida. Further screening such as, ultrasound or amniocentesis gives more accurate information. Triple Test This is a blood test for Downs syndrome which combines the AFP result with levels of other blood chemicals and can indicate how likely a suspected abnormality might be. Amniocentesis This test may be done, when there is a suspected foetal abnormality. An ultra sound scan is done first to check the position of baby. Following a local anaesthetic, a sample of amniotic fluid which surrounds baby is withdrawn and sent to the laboratory. This test also reveals the sex of the baby. If there is a family history of haemophilia or muscular dystrophy, a male infant can inherit the disease. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) This test can show up a number of disorders in the baby. Carried out in early pregnancy, it poses a small risk of miscarriage. A CVS can indicate Downs syndrome, certain inherited diseases e.g. sickle cell anaemia or...
What is Entonox?

What is Entonox?

This is a mixture of oxygen and another gas called nitrous oxide, which is now considered to be one of the safest and most versatile methods of pain relief in labour. It is also used in several other specialist procedures, e.g. in medical, surgical, dental, casualty units and so on. Pain relief is obtained through inhalation from a small apparatus made up of a lightweight face mask, a valve and tubing connected to a particular supply. The mask fits snugly to the face while the valve is dual purpose, permitting freedom to breathe in and out without removing the face mask. A demonstration is usually given in antenatal classes. In labour the Entonox is given at the midwives discretion. Direct supervision is not necessary and once advised by the midwife the mother can help herself. To ensure that the maximum effect is achieved it’s best to start inhaling the Entonox at the very first sign of the contraction. Breathe very deeply in and out – keeping the mask firmly in place until the contraction subsides. Then, breathe normally while awaiting the next...
What should I eat during pregnancy?

What should I eat during pregnancy?

The mother’s diet must make provisions for her own health, growth and development of her baby and storage of nutrients for breast milk. A wide variety of foods are essential: Fruit and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals Starch – like bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, and cereals provide heat and energy Lean meat, fish, eggs, cheese, beans and lentils are important nutrients Dairy products – milk, cheese and yogurt are rich in calcium – vital for good teeth and bones Green leafy vegetables, red meat, dried fruits and nuts contain iron Citrus fruit, tomatoes, broccoli, blackcurrants and potatoes contain vitamin C Margarine or oily fish e.g. sardines and salmon have vitamin D – essential for absorption of calcium Extra folic acid helps prevent spina bifida and other serious problems. Green leafy vegetables, fortified cereals and breads contain this vitamin – also available in tablet form.   Precautions Ensure eggs are well cooked – prevents risk of salmonella Avoid soft cheeses Drink pasteurised milk Don’t eat liver, liver pate or sausage as these are high in vitamin A, which could harm your baby. Tea, coffee and cola should be in moderation as too much caffeine can affect your baby’s birth...
I find the various people involved in my care confusing, can you explain their role?

I find the various people involved in my care confusing, can you explain their role?

These are the people you are most likely to meet: Midwives are specially trained to care for mothers and babies throughout pregnancy, labour and after the birth. They either work in hospital or in the community. The hospital midwife will see you at check-ups, look after you in labour, deliver your baby provided labour is normal and care for you afterwards. A Community Midwife attached to your GP’s practice may also be involved in your ante /postnatal care. A Public Health Nurse, who is a trained midwife, will visit you at home. You may continue to see the PHN at home, in the child health clinic or GP’s surgery. The GP looks after the family’s general health and may do all your antenatal care, or share this with the hospital. If you have your baby at home or in a GP / midwife unit, your GP can be involved in the birth. An Obstetrician is a doctor specialising in the care of women during pregnancy and birth. A Paediatrician is a doctor who specialises in the care of babies and children. A Physiotherapist is specially trained in physical health and activity. You may meet her at antenatal classes, and in the postnatal ward. She will help you cope with the physical changes of pregnancy and birth and teach you exercises to help your muscles...
What are the important nutrients required during pregnancy?

What are the important nutrients required during pregnancy?

Eating a well-balanced diet in which there is a wide variety of foods provide most of the nutrition required. Adequate intake of vitamin D and C is necessary for proper absorption of important minerals – iron and calcium. Iron is essential for the formation of the red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body and is of paramount importance to: (a) meet the demands of the baby; (b) sustain increased maternal red cell formation; (c) compensate for blood loss during and after delivery. The pregnant woman is especially prone to anaemia, due to the demands of the infant and also possibly due to eating the wrong foods, digestive upsets, perversions of appetite and/or cravings. In addition, many pregnant women have a reduced hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which prevents the use of iron in their food. For all these reasons, doctors prescribe iron supplements during pregnancy and the postnatal stage. However, taking iron can contribute to the problem of constipation. Eating extra roughage and drinking extra fluids and taking short walks helps to counteract this. Calcium is necessary to provide for the development of baby’s bones, teeth and muscles and plenty of calcium rich foods are needed during pregnancy and...