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Pre-pregnancy care helps avert complications

Managing risk factors vital for those with pre-existing medical conditions

Pregnancy test
Image Credit: Supplied
Pre-pregnancy care is also touted as the best time for genetic counselling for couples in the Middle East, especially for parents who are blood relatives
Gulf News

Dubai: Pregnancy complications resulting from hypertension, diabetes, and other chronic diseases could be significantly reduced if women with pre-existing medical conditions plan their pregnancy and opt for pre-pregnancy care, doctors told Gulf News.

“I strongly recommend these ladies to come for a check-up before they get pregnant. Usually, I request them to come around six months before [pregnancy],” Dr Suha Al Houby, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at Elite Medical Centre, told Gulf News.

“We will not know everything 100 per cent but we will eliminate or we will reduce [pregnancy] complications by 90 or 95 per cent,” she added.

Women diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, epilepsy, autoimmune disease, renal disease, thyroid and blood disorders are likely to have high-risk pregnancies. The incidence of hypertension in the UAE, which is 41 per cent, is higher than the world average. The silent killer diabetes affects about 19.2 per cent of the UAE population. Determining the risk factors and managing them beforehand, therefore, is of the utmost importance for a healthy pregnancy.

“For those that have coexisting medical conditions, it is essential to plan ahead. There are common conditions that need to be reviewed and have optimised care before you get pregnant,” Dr George Michailidis, foetal and maternal medicine specialist at N9ne Medical Institute, told Gulf News. “If you’re thinking about it and you’re planning about a possible pregnancy, it’s good to meet your doctor, and have a chat,” he added.

Pre-pregnancy care is also touted as the best time for genetic counselling for couples in the Middle East, especially for parents who are blood relatives.

However, awareness for pre-pregnancy care among women is very low, according to both doctors, citing anecdotal evidence in Dubai.

“One out of ten women might do this and this is happening with the new generation which means [those] aged 30 and below. The older generation, not that much,” Dr Al Houby said.

Costly maternity packages in private and public hospitals and lack of sufficient medical insurance coverage were also reasons to go for pre-pregnancy care, she said.

The World Health Organisation estimates that around 800 women die each day worldwide due to pregnancy-related or childbirth-related causes which, in this day and age, are highly preventable. While the number in the UAE is low — 12 in every 100,000 live births due to optimised medical care — there is no room for complacency. Doctors in the UAE say that aspiring mums shouldn’t downplay the importance of pre-pregnancy care since the present generation of women can no longer claim to be as “healthy” as before.

Having some ‘me’ time, doctors say, should therefore be part of every woman’s schedule.

“Let’s say, I’ll spend few hours with my family, just one hour for myself. Just one hour, I have to go for the check-up,” Dr Al Houby said.