If you are planning a pregnancy in the near future, you may want to consider preconception counseling. In a preconception visit, women are screened for health and potential risk factors prior to becoming pregnant. Here is some information on what to expect during a preconception visit...
by Patricia Hughes
If you are planning a pregnancy in the near future, you may want to consider preconception counseling. In a preconception visit, women are screened for health and potential risk factors prior to becoming pregnant. These visits are valuable for both women with chronic health conditions. Many doctors are now recommending preconception counseling to all their patients.
Benefits of Preconception Counseling
Perhaps the biggest benefit of preconception counseling is knowledge. A health problem or potential risk factor that is found prior to conception can prevent serious complications later. Unhealthy lifestyle choices can be changed prior to the pregnancy to increase the likelihood of a healthy baby and mother.
If a health condition is present, it is generally best to get it under control prior to pregnancy. For example, if the doctor discovers that a woman has undiagnosed high blood pressure, this can be treated through lifestyle changes or medication. The doctor will evaluate any health conditions and suggest ways to get the condition under control prior to pregnancy.
Preconception counseling appears to greatly improve the outcome for women with diabetes prior to pregnancy. A study by the Maine Department of Human Services compared the outcome in pregnancies in women who participated in the Diabetes in Pregnancy Program with those of women who did not participate in the program.
Of the women participating in the program, one baby was born with a congenital defect and four were lost to fetal or neonatal death. Of the women not participating in the program, there were eight babies born with congenital abnormalities and twenty six fetal or neonatal deaths. The outcome of the women who received the preconception counseling was much better. For more information check out: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/16/2/450
What to Expect at a Preconception Visit
You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire at your visit. This questionnaire will ask for information about your general health and family history. Do you have any chronic health conditions? You will be asked about birth defects or genetic disorders and if any members of your family have these or have had children with them. This information will tell your doctor if you need further testing either now or during pregnancy and will alert your health care provider to any medical conditions that need extra care or attention.
The questionnaire will have questions related to lifestyle. This will include questions about diet, tobacco use, alcohol and drug use. Questions about drug use will include both prescription and illegal drugs. Some prescription medication is not safe during pregnancy and changes can be made now. The best time to quit smoking or drinking is before you become pregnant to give your baby the best possible start in life.
Blood and urine samples will be taken during the preconception visit as well. Tests will be done for sexually transmitted diseases and a rubella titer test may be done to check for immunity. Rubella (German Measles) can be very dangerous, particularly in the first trimester of pregnancy. If you don’t have immunity, the doctor may recommend a vaccine. This should only be done three or more months prior to conception as the vaccine is not safe during pregnancy.
Patricia Hughes is a freelance writer and mother of four. Patricia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University. She has written extensively on pregnancy, childbirth, parenting and breastfeeding. In addition, she has written about home décor and travel.
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