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The benefits of a proactive approach to your pregnancy

Early pregnancy assessment centre established

Medicine today is increasingly placing an emphasis on safeguarding the health of pregnant women, and on detecting any potential problems at an early stage so that these can be treated to prevent them from having a negative impact on the wellbeing of either mother or child.

This is according to Dr Siva Pillay, a family physician specialising in foetal medicine practises at Netcare Cuyler Hospital in Uitenhage, Eastern Cape. “A healthy mother is considerably more likely to have a healthy child with a lower risk of complications during the birthing process,” added Dr Pillay, who was speaking during Child Health Month in August.

“For this reason it is critical that there is a greater focus on adopting a proactive approach to the health of mother and baby during pregnancy, rather than responding medically in the event of something going wrong or when complications arise during a pregnancy,” notes Dr Pillay.

“The latest technologies and approaches in foetal and obstetric medicine are making it increasingly possible to predict possible health problems early on in a pregnancy with a high degree of accuracy, and to act early to limiting their harmful effects or even preventing them from manifesting.

“At Netcare Cuyler Hospital we are placing considerable emphasis on antenatal care that encompasses preventive obstetrics. This encourages regular consultations with a gynaecologist/obstetricianto prevent, predict, detect and manage any problems and complications of pregnancy.

“Such a proactive approach can be lifesaving, and we therefore encourage parents not to delay in consulting a healthcare specialistho can monitor their pregnancy from an early stage. Pregnancy should, as far as possible, be a happy experience for all mothers-to-be and not a stressful one.”

Dr Pillay uses the example of gestational diabetes, which is a fairly common form of diabetes mellitus experienced by pregnant women specifically during pregnancy, to illustrate his point: “This condition poses a number of potential risks for complications including early or preterm birth and the newborn suffering from distress syndrome, where the baby struggles to breathe

“If gestational diabetes is detected early, however, the mother’s condition can be managed, and any risks to both mom and baby dramatically reduced. In addition, if the condition is managed properly the baby may be prevented from becoming diabetic later in life.

“Gestational hypertension and preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure and is another example of a high morbidity condition that can be predicted with 91% accuracy by 13.6 weeks of gestation. If treated early, it can be prevented or its complications minimised. The condition can also be delayed, affording the baby an improved chance of survival.”

According to Dr Pillay, these are among the reasons why he has established a well-equipped early pregnancy assessment centre at Netcare Cuyler Hospital. It is one of only a few private centres of its kind in the Eastern Cape province and is accredited by the Foetal Medicine Foundation and the Department of Health (DoH).

“At the centre, we are able to screen for a wide variety of possible medical conditions and risks in the first trimester, which is up to 13.6 weeks of pregnancy. These include, to name just a few, preterm labour risk, still birth and miscarriage risk, Down’s syndrome, open and closed spinal bifida, incompetent cervix, gestational diabetes risk, Edward’s Syndrome, and brain and heart abnormalities.”

Netcare Cuyler Hospital acting general manager, Laura Meyer, says that the pregnancy assessment centre offers a critical service, and every effort is therefore made to make its services as accessible as possible to the pregnant women in the region by offering a full battery of screenings at minimal cost.

“Dr Pillay heads up the pregnancy assessment centre, and the work he undertakes at the hospital and for the community is most remarkable. He offers his services to indigent patients at no cost on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He also organises antenatal yoga classes and a host of activities in service of his patients. The hospital is indeed fortunate to have the services of Dr Pillay available,” points out Meyer.

The centre is equipped with a range of state-of-the-art technology including a new Voluson E8 4D ultrasound machine, which offers exceptional image quality and enables a full morphology screening at 20 to 22 weeks, to ensure the baby is growing and developing normally.

The modern maternity ward at Netcare Cuyler Hospital has rooming-in facilities, and offers four-dimensional scanning. The Netcare Stork’s Nest mother and baby wellness clinic at the hospital offers antenatal and post-natal services including antenatal classes, baby development and milestone monitoring, and a baby vaccination programme.

There is also a breast milk bank where mothers are able to donate milk which is then distributed to neonatal intensive care units at a number of hospitals, for the feeding of compromised neonates whose mothers who are not able to breastfeed them for one reason or another.

“Dr Pillay’s early pregnancy assessment centre enables Netcare Cuyler Hospital to offer a complete end-to-end service to our patients, and assists to ensure that moms are able to have a worry-free pregnancy and birthing experience as possible,” concludes Meyer.