Even before you start trying for a possible pregnancy, there are important steps you can take to increase the well-being of yourself and your baby. A preconception doctor appointment can identify potential risk factors and guide how to mitigate those risks to ensure a healthy, safe pregnancy. During the appointment, your doctor will discuss family history, current medical conditions, environment, and lifestyle factors and check your overall physical condition.
Preconception Health Care
In general, all care provided by a doctor or other health professional that focuses on the health of a man or woman shown to increase the chance of having a healthy baby is referred to as preconception health care.
Small Actions Make a Difference
All steps that men and women take to increase their own health and well-being during their reproductive years have shown to make a difference in the development of a healthy baby during pregnancy, including maintaining exercise as a consistent routine, keeping a well-rounded diet, and managing any medical conditions. Preconception counseling and genetic counseling are also essential steps that can increase the health and safety of pregnancy.
Creating an Individualized Plan
The needs of each person are unique and individual, requiring that they consult with an expert on preconception health care to develop a specific plan related to risk factors associated with safe pregnancy. A preconception appointment is integral to assessing individual needs, understanding any genetic conditions through genetic counseling, providing information relevant to medical considerations, and connecting with valid resources for establishing wellness habits.
Considering Risk Factors
There are many aspects to consider when assessing medical conditions that may affect the health and safety of pregnancy. The preconception appointment incorporates time to discuss these risk factors with a knowledgeable professional who can give additional information, access to resources, and guidance on steps to preparing for pregnancy.
Genetic Family History
Gathering details about your genetic family medical conditions can provide variable information about possible risk factors that may affect the development and health of the baby.
Genetic counseling can provide further detailed information about how inherited genetic conditions may affect one’s health, as well as the health of the baby. Genetic counseling involves meeting with a specialist to review a detailed medical history of biological family members. From there, the specialist may recommend a genetic test to more accurately determine the probability or risk of passing on a concerning medical condition.
Ideally, before becoming pregnant, any current medical conditions will be treated and well managed. These may include diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disease, asthma, thrombosis, and seizure disorders. During preconception counseling, information about how pregnancy will affect chronic medical conditions will be discussed, and an individualized plan will be developed to address symptoms and maintain health.
Medications that are safe before pregnancy may be seriously detrimental to developmental growth, even in the early months of gestation. Discussing the safety of medication use during preconception counseling can help inform families of medications shown to have minimal risk. An important part of this discussion is developing a plan for routinely prescribed medications, including those treating an ongoing medical condition.
Some substances in our everyday environment can harm reproductive organs and increase conception difficulty. Even small amounts of otherwise safe substances can harm a small and growing baby during pregnancy. It is important to minimize contact with especially harmful substances and avoid specific substances known to cause miscarriages or congenital disabilities. The preconception appointment is a good opportunity to discuss living and work environments, assess if there may be contact with knowingly harmful substances, and outline a plan to adjust these environments during pregnancy.
Lifestyle and Behaviors
Many aspects of daily life can affect the well-being, health, and safety of pregnancy and developing baby. It is important to discuss general alcohol consumption, smoking habits, drug use, exercise routines, and dietary concerns. The CDC states that drinking alcohol, smoking, and using drugs can lead to premature birth, significant congenital disabilities, and infant death. Medical research also shows an important link between obesity and sometimes life-threatening complications during pregnancy.
During preconception counseling, an individual can work to develop personal goals and action steps to establish healthy routines and habits. This may include accessing professional resources for substance abuse and consulting with a nutritionist to establish a dietary plan.
At the Appointment
The goal of the preconception appointment is to gather relevant information related to family history, medical history, and current lifestyle; assess risk factors that may affect the health and safety of pregnancy, and create an individualized plan to make changes that mitigate the identified risk factors. The appointment will also consist of a routine physical exam, as well as additional lab testing to provide further information on any medical or genetic conditions. Much of the information can be gathered through a discussion or review of records.
A major aspect of preconception health care is related to maintaining a healthy weight before and during pregnancy. A routine physical and gynecological exam will check overall well-being, including blood pressure and current weight. Risks related to being overweight and obese include significant and life-threatening conditions that can affect the mother and the baby.
Additional information can be gathered through routine lab tests and medical screening. Specific tests may be recommended based on your family history, personal medical history, or current physical well-being. These tests can screen for diabetes, thyroid disease, or STDs, and if identified, can then be managed prior to pregnancy.
Consultation and Guidance
After gathering and evaluating all provided information, our doctors will work with you to create a health plan to increase the chance of a healthy, safe, and joyful pregnancy. Each person’s needs will be different, and so each plan will have unique action steps. Some of these may include managing a healthy weight, quitting smoking, or seeing a specialist regarding an identified medical condition.
Taking the First Steps
Completing the preconception appointment is a big first step in ensuring a safe pregnancy and caring for a healthy baby. Following the appointment, simple first steps can be taken to start preparing for pregnancy. These can include creating healthy dietary habits, maintaining an exercise routine, and paying attention to stressful, emotional triggers.
Taking a prenatal vitamin is a highly recommended and proven beneficial action when planning a pregnancy. The daily pill or gummy contains a high concentration of vitamins and minerals necessary for fetal growth and development.
When You’re Ready, We’re Ready!
The journey to parenthood can be overwhelming – at Advanced OBGYN Institute, we are here to help you prepare for a healthy pregnancy with our top-of-the-line, individualized care. Schedule an appointment on our website to begin your parenting journey! When your family is ready to grow, we are here to help you navigate those first, crucial steps.