Pre-Conception Counseling: Preparing to Get Pregnant
There are many things to consider when preparing for pregnancy. You want to make sure your body and mind are as healthy as they can be because pregnancy can increase both physical and psychological stressors. Your doctor will work with you to make a plan that will help you achieve optimal health.
To give yourself and your baby the best chance at a healthy pregnancy, your health care should begin before you even conceive. Preconception counseling helps you identify risks to your fertility – social, behavioral, environmenta, and biomedical – and the outcome of your pregnancy so you can reduce those risks. A preconception plan helps you find ways to reduce those risks through education, counseling, and intervention if necessary.
A preconception plan begins with a visit to your doctor. This doctor may be an OB/GYN, a maternal-fetal medicine doctor, or another related specialist. This is the best time to talk about your pregnancy concerns, such as how to prepare your body for pregnancy and what to do and not do when you do become pregnant. You should also talk about health concerns, personal health history, family health history, and your experience with any previous pregnancies, whether you carried a baby to term or not.
Some of the topics you may discuss at a preconception visit are:
- Reproductive history, including:
- Prior pregnancies
- Menstrual history
- What types of birth control you’ve used
- Previous pap test results
- Any history of STDs or vaginal infections you have or have had
- Personal medical history, including any surgeries you’ve had
- Current medications, including vitamins and over-the-counter medications you take
- Family health history
- Your physical environment at home and at work
- Your weight
- Your lifestyle
- Alcohol intake
- Caffeine intake
- Any drugs you have used or currently use
- Prenatal vitamins
- Your doctor may also:
- Perform a physical exam to check your general health or a pelvic exam to check your reproductive health
- Order lab tests to check for certain health conditions
- Talk to you about how to determine when you’re ovulating and are most likely to get pregnant
- Discuss your vaccination status and talk about necessary or recommended vaccines
- Talk to you about genetic testing and its pros and cons
Developing a preconception plan
After your first preconception visit, you and your doctor will work together on a preconception plan that addresses your most likely risks. Pregnancy risks fall into the following categories:
Social concerns during pregnancy include factors such as domestic violence. It’s important that you are and feel safe and secure during your pregnancy.
Behavioral risks include things like lifestyle choices, including smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs, consuming caffeine, and not getting adequate nutrition. Most behavioral risks can be addressed through behavior modification and lifestyle changes. Many doctors recommend addressing behavioral risks prior to becoming pregnant as they can put you and your baby at risk during pregnancy.
Environmental risks involve the places you live, work, or spend a lot of time. For example, you may work around chemicals or fumes that can endanger your baby or put your pregnancy at risk.
Biomedical risks are related to your body and general health. Examples of biomedical risks are:
Preconception education and counseling
If you’re reading this page, your preconception education has already started. But it shouldn’t stop here. Talk with your doctor about making a preconception appointment when you can ask questions and address any concerns you have. The best time to start nurturing your baby is before he or she is even conceived. If your body and mind are healthy and prepared for pregnancy, your chances of having a healthy baby increase.
Your doctor will guide you to any education that may be important to you having a successful, healthy pregnancy. He or she will also work with you to address any social, behavioral, environmental, or biomedical risks that can be changed prior to conception. For example, if you are overweight and that weight could put you at risk for complications, your doctor will recommend that you get to a healthy weight before trying to conceive. And he or she will also guide you to resources to help you meet your weight loss goal.
Preconception counseling can be very effective at both helping you identify your risks and address them. For example, counseling may help you recognize that you have social risks and may help you find a way to minimize those risks before having a baby. Counseling can also help you tackle addictions that are leading to unhealthy choices, like excessive alcohol consumption or smoking.
Your doctor can recommend professionals who offer preconception counseling. If you have questions or would like to make an appointment with a Beaumont doctor, call 800-633-7377.
Making a preconception plan and following it can greatly improve your chances of having a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated birth. If you are considering pregnancy, contact Beaumont today to set up a preconception visit with a doctor or nurse practitioner who specializes in preconception care.