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( By Dr Tejinder Singh )

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Antenatal Care

Pregnancy is a normal physiological state but the complexity of anatomical and physiological changes that accompany pregnancy tend to stigmatize it as a disease process. However, as already stated, even though it is a normal process, it requires a deliberate attempt to maintain it in a normal state.

The systemic supervision of the woman during pregnancy is called antenatal care (ANC). The objective of ANC is to ensure that every pregnancy culminates in the delivery of a healthy child without having any adverse effect on the health of the mother. The secret of ANC lies in frequent examination of the mother by the health worker and preferably by a child specialist. This ensures that not only any complication of pregnancy is recognized and treated early but also at the time of delivery, the attending health worker is fully aware of the problems that the mother or baby is likely to encounter.

ANC should begin in the first few months of pregnancy and should continue till the end of it, with at least one monthly visit. During such visits, weight, blood pressure and growth of the baby inside the uterus is monitored. Important conditions like diabetes, heart diseases, kidney diseases etc are excluded or treated if present. Mother's hemoglobin, blood group and urine are also tested.

One of the most important inputs during ANC is immunization of the mother against tetanus, which protects the baby also. During first pregnancy, a mother is given 2 doses of tetanus toxoid at an interval of 4-8 weeks while during subsequent pregnancies only one booster dose is required. Supplementation of iron and folic acid is given for an average duration of 3 months, which also helps in improving the weight of the baby.

A pregnant woman has to observe certain precautions and you should be aware of these. All unnecessary drugs should be avoided, especially during the first three months of pregnancy as they can harm the baby. Similarly, x-rays of the mother are also risky. Be aware that till date, there is no such drug, which will help in producing a male baby. Most of the drugs used for this purpose can significantly harm the unborn baby.

It is a common practice these days to get the sex determination of the baby done and in some cases, if the baby is female, this is followed by abortion. This practice is against nature and you can become a supporting pillar by actively resisting such practices.

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