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Dr. Aliyah Khan is a Sharp Grossmont Hospital-affiliated OBGYN. Below, she offers tips on promoting a healthy pregnancy, and information about contributing factors in premature births.
How important is it for women to prepare for pregnancy before they conceive, and what steps can they take?
Women should have a preconception visit with their doctor to get familiar with present interventions to decrease birth defects. It is helpful in altering any current risk factors that may influence pregnancy outcome. Among women with a chronic medical condition, pregnancy should be timed to occur during optimal health so unrecognized risks can be identified and appropriate alterations can be advanced.
What causes premature births and birth defects among newborns? What can women who are planning to get pregnant do to help reduce risks?
There are many risk factors that can induce preterm labor and birth. Multiple gestation, smoking, previous preterm delivery, congenital or uterine abnormalities and placental abruption are just a few.
Birth defects can be caused by a variety of factors: diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, genetic disease, teratogen exposure (includes maternal infection, drugs, chemicals, radiation or any other agent that can disturb the healthy development of an embryo or fetus), etc.
Prenatal diagnosis can be offered to couples at risk. Women should consult their doctors to identify risk factors and learn about current advances in prenatal diagnosis.
How does age affect fertility?
Increased maternal age poses increased risk for a fetus with nondisjunction — an error in cell division that results in an unequal number of chromosomes. The most common error is trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome.
Is it safe for women over 35 to become pregnant? What can they do to help decrease complications?
Women over the age of 35 should get genetic counseling prior to getting pregnant. This will help them make decisions regarding the extent of diagnoses available and whether there are correctable conditions for the various diagnoses. It gives women the opportunity to be prepared for any problems they might face as a result of an abnormal pregnancy.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp's pregnancy and childbirth services or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego OBGYN or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about pregnancy and childbirth, visit Pregnancy and Childbirth in Adult Health or read the Pregnancy and Childbirth News archive.