By Kim Hyun-bin
Chung, 35, is in her fourth year of marriage and hopes to give birth to her first child this year. However, worries are on the rise as she was recently deemed to be in the high-risk pregnancy category.
The Korean government places women over 35 in this category and more prenatal tests are recommended.
In this year of the golden pig, many couples are hoping to have their first child. But pregnancies do not always go as planned, more so for women over 35.
Experts advise women to follow healthy regimes to increase the chances of becoming pregnant.
Conduct prenatal tests to find right pregnancy period
Prenatal tests check a woman's health and for any diseases that could cause birth defects, and can indicate the right time to become pregnant.
Women also usually receive cervical cancer tests, ultrasounds and blood and urine tests. If the results show the woman does not have rubella or hepatitis B immunity, doctors urge them to get vaccinated.
"When a woman is over 35, there tends to be higher risks and poor pregnancy results, including fetus chromosome problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, premature birth and a low birth weight infant, so prenatal tests are a must," Seol Hyun-ju, professor of gynecology at Kyunghee University Hospital at Gangdong, said.
"Not all mothers over 35 need special treatment or are considered high risk. However, there are many cases where high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic diseases start to form around that age without the patient knowing."
Take folic acid and prepare in advance
Preparations are key to reducing birth uncertainties and the best way to enhance pregnancy prognostics.
When a couple is preparing for pregnancy, experts advise women to take folic acid. This reduces the chance of neural tube defects in the embryo.
If a woman has a normal menstrual cycle, they can check if they are pregnant through a pregnancy test kit.
Take extra care during early pregnancy
When a woman gets pregnant, the gynecologist checks the health of the woman and her embryo as most miscarriages occur during the early stage. Even healthy mothers can develop high blood pressure and diabetes from pregnancy.
Experts say it is important to speak to a professional starting from the early stages and set up a systematic prenatal care plan.
"Up to 10 weeks into pregnancy is crucial as the baby's organs are developing," Seol said. "Some drugs might increase the risk of birth defects, so the woman needs to consult with a doctor and set up a systematic prenatal care plan."
Quit drinking and smoking
Smoking is especially bad for the fetus.
Infants exposed to smoke, during pregnancy and after birth, are more at risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) due to increased levels of nicotine. And infants exposed to smoke during pregnancy are up to three times more likely to die of SIDS than children born to non-smoking mothers.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including cyanide, lead and at least 60 cancer-causing compounds. Experts say that when you smoke during pregnancy, that toxic brew gets into your bloodstream, which is the baby's only source of oxygen and nutrients.
Two compounds are especially harmful: nicotine and carbon monoxide. According to experts, these two toxins account for almost every smoking-related complication in pregnancy.
Drinking alcohol is another hazard, especially in the first three months of pregnancy as it increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and the baby having a low birth weight. Drinking heavily throughout pregnancy can cause your baby to develop a serious condition called fetal alcohol syndrome.
Light regular exercise helps you stay healthy
Maintaining a regular exercise routine throughout your pregnancy can help you stay healthy. Regular exercise can improve your posture and decrease some common discomforts such as backache and fatigue. Physical activity may prevent gestational diabetes, relieve stress and build more stamina needed for labor and delivery.
If an expecting mother was physically active before pregnancy, they should be able to continue the exercise in moderation. However, they should not try to exercise at former levels. Low-impact aerobics, walking, swimming and yoga are recommended instead.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise a day on most if not all days, unless there is a medical or pregnancy complication.
If an expecting mother has an illness, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, exercise may not be advisable. Exercise may also be harmful if you have a pregnancy-related condition such as spotting, low-lying placenta, previous miscarriages or a weak cervix.