Congratulations on expecting your first baby! Dr Christopher Chong, obstetrician & gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, advises on essential steps to take in your preparation for parenthood.
While you wait in anticipation and excitement for the special day your baby is born, there will be many other first experiences along the way.
It is important to attend regular medical appointments to ensure the ongoing health of you and your baby and to monitor your baby’s development in the womb. These visits will also provide the necessary education you need, as well as counselling and support. They also give you the chance to raise the many questions that will arise over the next 8 to 9 months.
Here are 6 key things you can expect to do in your journey as you prepare to welcome your new baby into the world.
#1 Consult your obstetrician
If you suspect you are pregnant, or your pregnancy test kit tells you so, you should book an appointment to see an obstetrician. On this first visit, you can expect to answer some questions to help your obstetrician to determine:
- Your menstrual and medical history including any previous pregnancies and surgeries
- Medications you may be taking and possible exposure to contagious diseases
- Family medical history
- Potential risk factors related to your age, health, and family medical history
You should also use this consultation to ask any questions you may have.
Here are a few questions to use as a checklist to make sure you are fully informed about how you should be looking after yourself and your unborn baby. Your obstetrician will cover more detailed information about the birth as the time draws nearer.
- When is my baby due?
- How often do I need to see you during my pregnancy?
- Will I have scans throughout my pregnancy? When?
- What other tests will I have?
- How can I manage my morning sickness?
- Can I continue to take my current medications/supplements?
- Can I smoke or drink alcohol while I am pregnant?
- How much coffee or tea can I drink when I am pregnant?
- Are there any foods I need to avoid?
- Do I need antenatal classes?
- Can I continue my usual exercise routines?
- Can I still travel overseas?
- How much weight gain is healthy for me?
#2 Go for tests to check the health and gender of your baby
After your first visit with your obstetrician, follow-up appointments will be made to ensure the health of you and your baby are monitored regularly. You are encouraged not to miss any of these appointments. An ultrasound scan from week 6 onwards should be able to detect your baby’s heartbeat, and your doctor should be able to give you an expected due date.
Scans are often done at every antenatal visit. Important periods for scans include:
- 6 – 10 weeks for dating of pregnancy to help in confirming the due date
- 11 – 14 weeks to assess the risk of Down syndrome
- 16 – 20 weeks to learn the sex of the baby
- 20 – 22 weeks for foetal organ abnormalities
- 32 – 34 weeks to assess the growth of the foetus
You also have the option of an amniocentesis test to test for Down syndrome. Your doctor may recommend this for mothers who have a higher risk for anomalies. Non-invasive prenatal tests (blood) are available to assess foetal chromosomes with high accuracy.
#3 Attend antenatal classes to prepare yourself for childbirth and caring for the baby after delivery
You are encouraged to attend antenatal classes during your second trimester. It is recommended you attend these as a couple so that your spouse can better understand and support your needs. These classes aim to offer useful information such as:
- Maternal nutrition
- Relaxation training
- Breathing exercises and techniques during childbirth
- How to prepare yourself psychologically for the arrival of your baby
- How to care for your newborn
At Gleneagles’ ParentCraft Centre, for example, you have the option of a private one-to-one session or a group session.
#4 Join a maternity tour to familiarise yourself with the hospital’s facilities and services
You can book a free maternity tour to explore the maternity ward and get familiar with the process on your big day.
During the tour, you can visit the room that you are staying at, the delivery suite where you will be welcoming your baby, what services you can expect, and most importantly be assured that you are in good hands during your entire length of stay.
Some hospitals, like Gleneagles Hospital, also provide you a simple tasting session to sample the confinement food offered to all mummies!
#5 Know when to go to the hospital and what to bring
When the big day finally arrives, it is important to know when to go to hospital. Check with your obstetrician if you are beginning to experience the first signs of labour. You may be told to wait until the contraction frequency increases, or visit the hospital when you experience any of the following:
- Immediately, when you experience any labour symptoms if you have a high-risk pregnancy or are carrying twins or multiples
- In a normal single pregnancy, when your contractions are regular and strong, and coming every 10 to 15 minutes for 1 to 2 hours
- Rupture of membranes (water breaking)
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
- Reversed foetal movements
- Blurred vision
- Severe headaches
- Intense stomach/abdominal pain
Pack a bag ready with what you will need around a month before the due date so that in the event that you need to visit the hospital immediately, you can just grab and go.
Some key essentials to bring:
- Documents: Marriage certificate, Identity card / passport, Letter from your doctor, laboratory results (if any), Cord blood collection kit (if any)
- Clothing: 2 sets of outfits (with front opening for breastfeeding), Disposable underwear, Toiletries (hospital will provide basic toiletries), Nursing bra, Maternity pads, Slippers
- For baby: Receiving blanket / baby blanket, Baby mittens and boots, Baby hat, A set of clothing for day of discharge
- For father / birthing partner: Snacks and drinks, Change of clothes, Magazines, List of people to call, Toiletries (hospital will provide basic toiletries)
6. Care for yourself and your baby post-delivery
When your baby is born, the medical team will conduct some tests to establish normal health or alert to any medical problems immediately. These tests include:
- APGAR, a quick, overall assessment of a newborn’s well-being conducted 1 to 5 minutes after the birth of your baby, measuring your baby’s colour, heart rate, reflexes, muscle tone, and respiratory effort.
- G6PD deficiency (lack of an enzyme)
- Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)
- Hearing loss
- Bilirubin to assess for infant jaundice
After delivery, you can expect lactation consultants to visit you in your room to guide you in the initial breastfeeding process. Breastfeeding classes and daily bath demonstrations are also provided at the ward. The process of breastfeeding can be stressful, especially for first-time mothers, so having a professional to guide and support you is very helpful.
After discharge from the hospital, the lactation consultants will follow-up with a phone call to check on how you are coping.
If you have any concerns at all about your pregnancy, or what to expect in the days leading up to childbirth, always consult your doctor.
Most importantly, as you prepare yourself during your pregnancy, don’t forget to embrace all the small moments.
Advises Dr Chong: “Pregnancy is special and wonderful, so remember to enjoy the journey!”