Getting pregnant should be pretty easy. Things being equal, if there are no fertility issues; all you need are a fertile uterus, healthy sperm and the perfect timing. That was how it was for me. I pretty much scaled through the whole process, even though it took about two months for us to finally get there. Before then, I made sure I was taking foods high in progesterone to ensure that I was fertile enough. When I finally missed my period and had a test to confirm I was pregnant, I felt proud of myself, glad that it wasn’t one of those accidental discharge incidences.
During the course of my pregnancy, I did everything I could to guarantee that I was healthy and my baby was in good form. I ate right, never missed a day of my vitamins, never missed a doctor’s appointment, took healthy walks with my husband on most evenings and generally surrounded myself with happiness. I felt I was in good place and looked forward to the birth of my baby.
The day came without much drama and after 18 hours of labor, my daughter finally came into the world. Cue in the smiles, the tears that sting your eyes at the first sight of your little one whom you’ve carried for nine months and the inexplicable joy that comes with the moment. That was how it was all supposed to be in that hospital room but I had none of that when my baby was pulled out of me and the first sight that hit my eyes was this excess skin on the base of her spine and gangly legs that wouldn’t kick at all. Prior to this, like every mother, I had visualized this moment and what I saw was a perfect, little baby. Yet reality hit me like a cannon ball when I had to look at her and hear the doctor tell me that she had a congenital disease called Spina Bifida. He said the bones of her spine (vertebrae) didn’t form properly at the lower part of her spinal cord. The worst part was that she was having a severe case of spina bifida which would need surgery and could lead to other complications like her not being able to walk and having no control of her bowel movements.
“How did I miss this?” I asked myself. “How did the four scans I had during pregnancy miss this? How didn’t I get it right after all I tried?”
Unfortunately those were questions that I haven’t gotten answers to even today. My husband and I went through a very difficult time after that, spending three months at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, watching our baby go through two surgeries, a case of hydrocephalus and nameless medical procedures. In the end, she fought through all the obstacles, escaped death that constantly loomed in her face and today, she is a healthy little three year old. Although she can now stand and move her legs, she is yet to walk and we’re still in the process of potty-training her, ignoring what the doctors have told us about her not being able to control her bowel movements. We believe she’ll get there no matter how long it takes.
But here’s the question people often ask me and what I asked myself for a long time until I got tired.
“What caused it?”
At the hospital I went through thorough questioning from the doctors? Did I smoke, take alcohol, take un-prescribed drugs, drink herbal mixture while pregnant? Does anyone in my family have the same disease? Did I try to abort the pregnancy at some point? Did I miss my antenatal appointments?
My answer to all of that was an emphatic ‘no’.
So then, how did it happen?
It still remains a mystery, one that I have given up trying to solve. I have accepted that it is what it is and I continue to rely on God to take us through as a family.
But here’s what I want to share today, what the doctors told me, what I researched extensively and what every sexually active woman should know. Spina Bifida could have been avoided if I had taken Folic Acid at the right time. And what is the right time, according to the experts? 3 to 6 months before pregnancy.
Why folic acid?
Folic acid is vitamin B and your body cells need it for growth and development. Taking it before and during early pregnancy reduces your baby’s risk for birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. It helps reduce the number of pregnancies affected by what is called NTDs (Neural Tube Defects) by up to 70 percent. Folic acid also helps prevent heart defects, and cleft lip and palate in babies.
Furthermore, all women are advised to take folic acid even if they are not trying to get pregnant. And because most pregnancies are unplanned, it is necessary that women have a healthy reproductive system before the baby comes. The increasing cases of NTDs can be reduced if women try this simple but preventive method.
I know my story will help someone out there. This was the type of information I needed before I got pregnant and I am certain it will help you as well or someone you know.
Please share and do have a lovely weekend.
Writer: Sally is 360nobs in-house Editor. She loves to write. She has written so many plays and short stories. She is the author of the Fish Brain series and has written other online series like The Immortals’ Code, No heart Feelings, To Tame a Virgin and In Pursuit of Kyenpia. She lives in Lagos with her husband and daughter and loves the occasional bar lounging with friends. She blogs on www.moskedapages.com or you can follow her on Twitter @moskedapages.
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