What you need to know when you’re trying to conceive to prepare for the healthiest pregnancy possible. You may not be pregnant yet, but the best way to care for your future pregnancy is to get a thorough top-to-bottom preconception checkup.
A full-body tune-up now will make it easier to tackle health issues before baby’s on board and will help ensure your pregnancy is a safe and healthy one.
For Expecting Mothers
Preconception Health Care
Preconception health care is the medical care a woman receives from the doctor or other health professionals that focuses on the parts of health that have been shown to increase the chance of having a healthy baby.
Preconception health care is different for every person, depending on his or her unique needs. Based on a person’s individual health, the doctor or other health care professional will suggest a course of treatment or follow-up care as needed. If your health care provider has not talked with you about this type of care―ask about it!
1st Step before getting pregnant
The very 1st Step before getting pregnant is See Your Doctor for preconception health care
Your doctor will want to discuss your health history and any medical conditions you currently have that could affect a pregnancy. He or she also will discuss any previous pregnancy problems, medicines that you currently are taking, vaccinations that you might need, and steps you can take before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about:
- The type of birth control you are on.
- Your menstrual cycles.
- Your diet and lifestyle habits.
- A list of the medications you currently take.
- Take 400 Micrograms of Folic Acid Every Day
- Vaccinations (shots)Here are some vaccines that might be on your preconception agenda:
- Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR). If you’ve never been immunized against this trio of serious childhood diseases,or if testing shows your immunity wore off (it happens), you’ll need the MMR vaccine.
Remember to wait 1 month from the time you get the vaccine until you start trying to conceive.
- Chicken pox (varicella) If you’ve never had chicken pox or weren’t vaccinated against it, it’s recommended that you get the varicella vaccine pre-pregnancy, and that you wait at least one month before you start trying to conceive.
- Hepatitis B If you’re at high risk for hepatitis B, it’s recommended that you get vaccinated against hepB. The hep B shots come in a series of three, and if you don’t finish up the series before you conceive, it’s safe to continue it during pregnancy.
- HPV (Human papillomavirus) Are you younger than 26? If yes, you should be vaccinated against HPV with the full series of three shots before trying to conceive.
If you become pregnant before completing the full series, you’ll have to resume the shots postpartum.
- During pregnancy you’ll need to roll up your sleeves for two more shots: the flu shot and the Tetanus-diphtheria pertussis (Tdap) vaccine (which should be given ideally around 27 weeks to 36 weeks of pregnancy).
- Plan a trip to the dentist
- Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Any chronic conditions or medical problems you have.
- Learn Your Family History
- Your recent travel.
Tests and screenings at my preconception appointment
Your preconception checkup will include a lot of pre-pregnancy-specific tests and screenings, plus many of the standard screenings you’re used to from your regular annual visit. Here’s what you can expect:
- A Pap test
- A pelvic, breast and abdominal exam
- Blood pressure reading
- Screening for any gynecological conditions that might interfere with fertility or pregnancy, such as irregular periods, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, cysts, benign tumors, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- TA urine test to screen for urinary tract infection and kidney disease
- A blood test to check hemoglobin count (to test for anemia), vitamin D levels (to make sure you’re not deficient), Rh factor (to see if you are positive or negative), rubella titer, (to check for immunity to rubella), varicella titer (to check for immunity to chicken pox), tuberculosis (if you’re at high risk for Tb), hepatitis B titers (if you’re in a high-risk category, such as being a health care worker), cytomegalovirus titers (to determine if you’re immune to CMV), toxoplasmosis titers (if you have a cat, regularly eat raw or rare meat, or garden without gloves), thyroid function and sexually transmitted diseases
- A mental health screening : Depression, anxiety disorder or any other mental health issue, including eating disorders, can interfere with conception and increase your risk of mood disorders during pregnancy and postpartum. If you normally see a therapist (or think you need to see one), a visit for a preconception screening is a good idea as well.
Fertility tests might your doctor do:
- If you’re under 35 and have no known fertility issues, there aren’t any additional tests in store for you at the first preconception checkup.
- But some doctors will be more proactive with their “older” hopeful moms-to-be, testing their blood for certain fertility markers that could give a heads up on any potential difficulties in the fertility department.
- These tests might include a blood test to check progesterone levels (testing around day 21 of your cycle can confirm that you’re ovulating), FSH and estradiol (testing for these two hormones on day 3 of your cycle can help determine how many eggs you have in reserve in your ovaries) and AMH (testing for the anti-mullerian hormone also measures ovarian reserve).
- If your doctor suspects you might have PCOS, testing for male hormones such as testosterone and DHEA-S may be ordered
Have a Healthy Pregnancy !
Once you are pregnant, be sure to keep up all of your new healthy habits and see your doctor regularly throughout pregnancy for prenatal care.
For Expecting Fathers
- When most people hear the term preconception health, they think about women. However, preconception health is important for men, too.
- There are things men can do for their own health, as well as for the women and children in their lives.
- As a partner, it means encouraging and supporting the health of your partner. As a father, it means protecting your children.
- Prevent and Treat Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- Stop Smoking, Using “OTC” Drugs, and Drinking Excessive Amounts of Alcohol
- Be Careful About Toxic Substances
- Prevent Infertility
- Reach and Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Learn Your Family History
As partners, men can encourage and support the health of women. For example, if your partner is trying to eat healthier to get ready for pregnancy you can join her and eat healthier, too. Or if your partner has a medical condition, you can encourage her to see her doctor and remind her to follow her treatment plan.