What is Preconception counseling ?
Preconception counseling is proper health education, promotion, and risk assessment before pregnancy, so that the parents can make healthy choices for both the mother and the baby.
The goal of prepregnancy counseling is to help the would be mother become her healthiest self both physically and mentally. Preconception care is a necessary primary care for women in their reproductive years and essential for the health of the baby.
What To Expect?
During a preconception counseling session, the doctor may inquire about the following:
- Reproductive History : including previous pregnancies, contraceptive use, sexually transmitted diseases (STD), menstrual cycle, pap smears and vaginal infections. The ability to conceive may be affected by any of the above factors.
- Medical History : Here the doctor will want to know about any pre existing medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease and surgeries especially gynecologic surgery. This is done, as some steps may have to be taken to manage pregnancy, transfusions, hospitalizations, allergies and current medications to prevent any birth defects.
- Family History : including diabetes, hypertension, history of blood clots and genetic diseases such as blindness, deafness, and sickle cell anemia.
- Lifestyle Factors mostly include stress, smoking habits, alcohol intake, the amount of caffeine that is consumed daily, exercise and daily diet. The partner’s lifestyle may also affect fertility.
- Home And Workplace Environment : can affect a patient’s ability to become pregnant if she is exposed to x-rays, lead or solvents.
- Maintaining Body Weight of a maximum of 15 percent more or less than the ideal weight of the person is essential.
- Physical examination : The doctor will perform a physical examination in order to evaluate heart, lungs, breasts, and thyroid, Blood pressure and weight would also be noted.
- Lab tests for rubella, hepatitis, HIV, complete blood count, syphilis may be necessary.
- The doctor will also educate the would be mother on how to chart menstrual cycles. This is a great way to help detect ovulation and facilitate fertility.If the woman is not immune to vaccine preventable illnesses such as mumps measles rubella, chicken pox etc. the doctor may advise vaccination.
- Genetic counseling : In case the age of the would be mother is more than 35 or in cases, where there is a family history of genetic disease, genetic counseling may be advised to help understand the possibility of having a child with a genetic disorder. Some may require prenatal vitamins that include folic acid between 400-800 micrograms to ensure a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby.
- Based on the history and examination the doctor may suggest lifestyle changes. This may include measures such as updating immunization, quitting smoking or alcohol intake, or recreational drug use, reducing caffeine intake, steps to bring weight to the optimum, avoiding stress, and refraining from medications that may be harmful to the baby.
- Regular exercise is good as long as you don’t overexert yourself, particularly in pregnancy. Exercising three times a week is advised by most doctors. These recommendations may however vary from case to case.
- Most important of all is a good diet consisting of healthy food. For a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, good nutrition is crucial.