Caring for your health before you become pregnant (preconception care) will help you learn about any risk factors and treat any medical problems that you may have before you become pregnant. Planning for your pregnancy before you conceive will help you make healthy choices for you and your baby.
You and your partner should also undergo genetic counseling and testing before pregnancy. Specific tests may be recommended to find out if a couple is at risk for having a child with certain genetic diseases such as Tay-Sachs and sickle trait/sickle cell.
What happens during a preconception counseling office visit?
During a preconception counseling office visit, your health care provider will ask you questions about the following:
- OB/GYN history: previous pregnancies, menstrual history, contraceptive use, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), Pap smears, vaginal infections. STDs and vaginal infections may affect a woman's ability to conceive. Your doctor should discuss your medical history with you and may decide to perform cervical cultures or blood tests to prove that there are no infections that would limit your ability to conceive
- Medical/surgical history: surgeries, transfusions, hospitalizations, pre-existing medical conditions, allergies, current medications (including prescribed and over-the-counter medications)
- Family health history: hypertension, diabetes, twins, genetic factors such as mental retardation, blindness, deafness, congenital conditions, ethnic-related diseases such as Tay-Sachs, sickle trait/sickle cell
- Lifestyle habits: stress; exercise; diet; use of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or recreational drugs. The partner’s habits also should be discussed as his lifestyle may affect fertility
- Home and workplace environment: possible dangers such as exposure to cat feces, x-rays, lead or solvents
Your health care provider may also:
- Perform a physical exam (optional): heart, lungs, breasts, thyroid, abdomen and pelvic exam. Weight and blood pressure should be recorded
- Order lab tests (optional): including rubella, hepatitis, complete blood count (CBC), Pap, HIV
- Discuss how to chart menstrual cycles: fertility awareness or the use of a fertility kit
- Prescribe a prenatal vitamin with 400-800 micrograms of folic acid
Based on the exam, the health care provider may suggest lifestyle changes that may need to be made to help insure a healthy pregnancy and baby. These suggestions may include weight loss, quitting smoking or drinking, not taking any medication that could be harmful to the pregnancy or baby, updating your immunizations, taking recommended vitamins, and avoiding stress.
During pregnancy, women can continue to exercise. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferred over intermittent activity (altering between periods of being active and inactive). Pregnant women should stop exercising when fatigued and not exercise to exhaustion.
Also, a good diet consisting of healthy food is very important. Good nutrition during pregnancy is needed for your baby to grow and develop. You should consume about 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant.