When you are pregnant, keeping up with your prenatal appointments is critical to your health and the health of your baby. But before you even try to get pregnant, you should schedule an appointment for preconception counseling with your OB/GYN. Preconception counseling is an important part of planning for pregnancy. Preconception care appointments will include the following things to make sure you are in the best health possible before you get pregnant.
A big part of a preconception counseling visit is talking to your doctor about your medical history. Thinks you should discuss include:
- Chronic conditions you currently have
- Past illnesses and injuries
- Medications you are currently taking
- Past surgeries and hospitalizations
You will also discuss your family’s medical history. Things that are important to discuss before you get pregnant include a family history of:
- High blood pressure
- Birth defects
- Twins or multiples
- Ethnic-related disease
- Sickle cell disease
- Mental disorders
Your OB/GYN will advise you on which vaccinations you need before pregnancy, which you should wait to get until you’re pregnant, and which you should avoid.
Part of preconception counseling involves getting guidance on your diet. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet is important for your health at all times, but when you are trying to get pregnant, proper nutrition is even more important. During a preconception appointment, your doctor can tell you what kinds of food to eat and avoid. They will also recommend that you start getting more folic acid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a woman should get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day for at least one month before she gets pregnant.
Lifestyle and Behavior
During a preconception counseling appointment, your doctor will talk to you about your habits and other lifestyle factors.
If you smoke, you will be advised to stop before you try to get pregnant. Smoking is linked to complications like placental abruption, preterm labor, and low birth weight. Smoking is an addiction that is very difficult to break, so if you need help quitting before trying to get pregnant, check out these resources at smokefree.gov.
Alcohol and Substance Use
Women who are trying to get pregnant are advised to avoid drinking alcohol. There is evidence that alcohol can cause fertility issues and make it more difficult to get pregnant. And drinking while pregnant has been linked to pregnancy complications and fetal alcohol syndrome.
The use of any drug or substance not prescribed and approved by your healthcare provider should stop before you start trying to get pregnant. Substance use can lead to complications during pregnancy or affect the baby’s health.
If you have difficulty quitting drinking or using a non-prescribed drug, your doctor may be able to recommend a treatment center so you can get help. You can also find a list of helplines and treatment providers on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s website.
Being overweight or underweight can impact your overall health and wellness. The healthier you are, the more likely you are to get pregnant. Also, being at a healthy weight when you get pregnant will decrease your risks of certain complications. Overweight or obese women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes. Women who are underweight are at risk of malnourishment.
Exam Health Screenings
During preconception counseling, your doctor may recommend a physical exam and certain health screenings. The physical exam includes checking your blood pressure, thyroid. weight, lungs, breasts, and abdomen. It may include a pelvic exam.
Lab tests may include screenings for rubella, hepatitis, HIV, complete blood count (CBC), diabetes, and thyroid issues. A Pap smear may also be recommended.
At Raleigh OB/GYN Centre, our experienced team of healthcare providers offers a comprehensive list of gynecological and obstetric services to the women of the Raleigh, NC area. If you have questions or concerns about your reproductive health, call our office at (919) 876-8225 to make an appointment for preconception counseling.