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Planning Retirement Online

Maternity update for grandparents to be


January 2013


Grandparent with grandchildWhen our children announce they are expecting the patter of tiny feet, it always takes us back to the times when we were becoming new parents ourselves.

But be careful! Technology has advanced massively and times have changed so much from when we were becoming proud parents. Our advice and some of our experiences may be out of date.

Antenatal care today covers a wide range of key areas including breastfeeding workshops and antenatal classes for men and women. Today the midwife or doctor may touch on drugs, mental health and domestic violence - no subject is taboo these days.

Lifestyle factors and diet are key just as they were when we were young, but knowledge has progressed greatly.

The benefits of folic acid have been known for many years. Modern research however has underlined the true importance of folic acid, including its help in the prevention of certain birth defects known as neural tube defects which can cause conditions such as spina bifida. Today women are recommended to take supplements during the time they are trying to conceive as well as during the first few weeks of pregnancy.

Vitamin D wasn’t a major aspect of pregnancy when we were young. Today it is key. The vitamin helps regulate levels of calcium and phosphate plus is needed for healthy bones and teeth. The best source of vitamin D is summer sunlight but in our climate it can be difficult to achieve enough exposure. Vitamin D can also be found in oily fish and some fortified margarines and breakfast cereals, but today many doctors recommend pregnant women take a vitamin D supplement. Today pregnant women are advised not to take any supplements with vitamin A in as excess vitamin A can harm a baby.

With advice available from medical staff, online, books and other resources, modern young people are often very knowledgable about their dietary requirements while pregnant. The fact that we may have paid less attention to this aspect when we were young doesn’t mean today’s youngsters are making extra fuss; it means they have more accurate information to help ensure they and the growing baby keep healthy.

At the moment there is a Healthy Start programme which offers vouchers to women who are 10 weeks pregnant and have a family income of less that £16,190. This may change of course, but the idea is that women can use the vouchers to help buy fruit and vegetables rather than rely on cheaper food alternatives.

If you think your pregnant child might quality here, the Healthy Start helpline is 0845 607 6823. (www.healthystart.nhs.uk)

Another area which has changed a great deal since we were young is the ready availability of tests and scans and pictures of the babe as it develops. Many of the checks we had are still in place (urine to check pre-eclampsia, blood tests etc) but today tests can often be recommended for susceptibility to rubella (or German measles as we knew it); hepatitis B and hepatitis C and also HIV. Ultrasound scans are also a normal factor of modern pregnancies. Most women are offered at least two ultrasound scans during their pregnancy and it is of course a part of modern life that these are often subsequently posted on Facebook and other social media networks.

Modern equipment means these scans are far clearer than the early scans some of us might have experienced all those years ago. This means that medical staff can gain a far more detailed picture of how the baby is developing. It is not uncommon these days for the birth weight of a baby to be accurately predicted many weeks before the actual birth.

When the birth is imminent, you may find again your knowledge of pain relief is very dated. Hydrotherapy is today accepted as a useful method for some women to help them relax and to make main contractions less painful. Many hospitals today have a birthing pool and birthing pools are also available to be used at home. Gas and air is still used as an option in hospitals, but other options today include intramuscular injections with drugs such as pethidine or diamorphine which can help lessen pain; or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This is known as TENS, given by special machines that stimulate the body to produce more of its own endorphins, or natural painkillers. TENS also reduce the number of pain signals that are sent to the brain by the spinal cord. There are no known side effects for the mother or baby from this.

Epidurals are still used and still very affective and popular and, with increased knowledge, they are today an accepted option during childbirth.

After the birth, vitamin K is usually given to a newborn baby to ensure it does not bleed too easily. A range of tests are usually given to newborns as well to check hearing and other physical aspects. A heel prick test is still taken, between five and eight days old, to check for phenylketonuria, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disorders and congenital hypothyroidism. Other tests may be recommended.

Modern day pregnancy and birth is different from when we were young; medical advances and knowledge has developed dramatically. While many of the basics remain the same, before you offer advice to your pregnant daughter or son’s partner, it is worthwhile visiting online sites such as www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby to ensure you are up to date about new developments.


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