Starting a Family
We provide pre-pregnancy advice to assist you in your journey of starting a family.
To find out more about Pre-pregnancy Care at the Dublin Well Woman Centre, visit our services section and make an appointment.
All women aged 25 and older should have a smear test. A national cervical screening programme has been in operation since autumn 2008. Most GP practices, women’s health clinics and family planning centres participate in the screening programme.
If you are 25 or more and have not yet received a letter from the programme you can contact the service on www.cervicalcheck.ie or telephone freephone 1800 454555.
Rubella or German Measles, as it is more commonly known, causes a mild viral illness in most people, but for pregnant women who are not immune to rubella, it may have devastating consequences for the pregnancy. If you got your rubella vaccine in school you are probably immune but a small number of people don’t develop any immunity. This can be checked with a simple blood test. If you are not immune, then you can get a booster vaccination. It is important not to get pregnant for three months after the booster.
This vitamin is particularly needed for the development of the baby’s spinal cord and brain. There is folic acid in a lot of food but, when pregnant, you need more. It is recommended that most women who are planning a pregnancy should start to take folic acid three months before they actively try to conceive.
Why is this so important? – The baby’s spinal cord is formed 28 days into the pregnancy. This is the time when most women are just realising that they are pregnant.
Folic acid helps to prevent Spina bifida (a problem with the development of the spinal chord) and Anencephaly (i.e. babies born with little or no brain tissue).
Folic acid should be continued until 3 months into the pregnancy.
Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, which are needed to keep bones and teeth healthy.You need to take vitamin D during your pregnancy to provide your baby with enough vitamin D for the first few months of its life. You should take a supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day when you are pregnant and if you breastfeed.
Vitamin D can be found naturally in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel and sardines), eggs and meat. Some manufacturers add it to some breakfast cereals, soya products, some dairy products, powdered milk, and fat spreads such as margarine. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone.
Our bodies also make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to summer sunlight. If you have darker skin (for example, if you are of African, African Caribbean or south Asian origin) or always cover your skin when outside, you may be at particular risk of vitamin D deficiency.
Thyroid Blood Tests
It is recognised that an underactive or overactive thyroid gland may affect the ability to conceive so a blood test can be taken to check thyroid hormone levels.
When trying to get pregnant many women are concerned about what they should and shouldn’t eat.
- All soft cheeses should be avoided (esp. Brie, Camembert, etc.) and any unpasteurised cheese.
- All liver and liver products should also be avoided, as they contain large amounts of Vitamin A which can be dangerous for the baby (cod liver oil tablets, pates etc.).
- Raw meats – Ensure all your meat is well cooked, esp. chicken.
- Eggs – Do not eat raw eggs. Be careful when eating out as some dishes may contain raw eggs. Always ask. Take extra care when purchasing prepared convenience food and remember to check the sell by date.
- Peanuts/nuts – It was thought that exposure to nuts during pregnancy increased the risk of children developing nut allergies – this theory has now been discounted so there is no need to avoid nuts and seeds during pregnancy.
Remember, there is no need to eat for two. Just eat a healthy, wholesome, sensible diet. You can expect to gain around 28lbs by the end of your pregnancy.
There is no known safe limit for the amount of alcohol that can be taken while pregnant. It is recommended that women reduce their consumption of alcohol during the entire pregnancy. It is important especially during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy when all of the organs are being formed.
Smoking tobacco reduces fertility in both men and women. Women who continue to smoke during a pregnancy increase the risk that the baby will be low birth weight and will have more breathing problems than if she did not smoke.
During pregnancy it is advisable not to take medication. However, while you are trying to conceive, you may have cause to take some antibiotics or painkillers. There are a number of both which are safe to take during and while planning a pregnancy, and your G.P. or pharmacist will be able to tell you what prescriptions are safe.
Painkillers – Paracetamol is safe to take, but only at the recommended dose.
Do not take Aspirin / Brufen / Nurofen at any stage during pregnancy.
Leading up to and during pregnancy, it is very important that you get sufficient exercise, but at the same time, the wrong type can do more harm than good. If you attend a gym, then you should talk to the instructors there as to what you can and can’t do. Walking, swimming and cycling are all good exercises, and there are a number of books available in most good bookstores on exercise during pregnancy.
If you have any pets, you should ensure that all their vaccinations are up to date. When handling cat litter, you should wear gloves or preferably get someone else to do it.
Check out EU Mom hosted by the Coombe’s Dr Sean Daly. It gives good information on pre-pregnancy care and women’s health during pregnancy.