Taking care of your health before getting pregnant is not only good but important for your baby’s health and yours.
This kind of care is called preconception care. A preconception assessment is done to check for any potential risks to you and your baby during pregnancy and to treat any health problem diagnosed before you get pregnant.
Before you take that step into pregnancy, you need to become very healthy; physically and emotionally.
To assess your preconception health, you’ll need to consult your healthcare provider. This will expose you to the vital information you must have in order to be and remain healthy as you become pregnant.
WHAT TAKES PLACE DURING A PRECONCEPTION ASSESSMENT?
Making a preconception counselling appointment with your doctor gives you the perfect opportunity to let out all the questions you have on your mind.
Be it your diet, prenatal vitamins, or any health problems that run in your family. Most women don’t know that eating the right food during pregnancy helps in having a safe delivery. A preconception assessment will let you know this and even more.
During a preconception assessment, you will discuss the following with your doctor:
- REPRODUCTIVE HISTORY – This covers your previous pregnancies (if any), your use of contraceptive, menstrual history, sexually transmitted infections or vaginal infections you’ve had in the past, and previous Pap test results.
- MEDICAL HISTORY – This will not only include your past but present health concerns, so they can be treated before you get pregnant.
- SURGICAL HISTORY – A history of gynecologic surgeries in the past may affect how you are managed during your pregnancy.If you’ve had any transfusions, hospitalization, and surgeries for fibroids or abnormal pap smears, it is important you let your doctor know.
- FAMILY HEALTH HISTORY – If certain medical conditions like hypertension, history of blood clots, or diabetes run in your family, tell your doctor about them.
- HOME AND WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT – Talk about possible allergies and hazards that can hinder your ability to get pregnant or maintain a healthy pregnancy.
- CURRENT MEDICATION – Let your doctor know about any supplements, herbal medicines, and over-the-counter drugs you are taking or have taken. This will help prevent birth defects.
- YOUR WEIGHT – You need to add weight or lose weight accordingly to get an ideal body weight before pregnancy. It will help reduce complications if you’re obese and having a low birth-weight baby if you’re underweight.
- LIFESTYLE – You and your doctor will discuss any habits you or your partner is having that could influence your pregnancy. Habits like drinking alcohol, smoking, and use of recreational drugs. The aim of this is to help you quit any habits that could be harmful to a healthy pregnancy.
- DIET – Your eating habit will be discussed. It’s very good to go into pregnancy with established healthy eating habits. That includes eating foods rich in fibre, getting enough folic acid, calcium, and other nutrients.
- EXERCISE – Some recommended forms of exercise will keep your body fit before and during pregnancy. Tell your doctor if you do or do not work out. He or she can advise you better.
- PRENATAL VITAMINS – You should be taking a folic acid supplement before you get pregnant; it reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect. Your doctor may likely recommend taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily before conception and in early pregnancy.
- CAFFEINE – Caffeine can be found in tea, coffee, chocolate, certain medications and some soft drinks. You may be asked to reduce your caffeine intake to just 300mg per day; about the amount in two 8-ounce cups of coffee.
In addition, your doctor may also:
- Order lab tests – To screen conditions like HIV, syphilis, rubella, hepatitis, and other indicated conditions.
- Conduct a physical exam – This exam will be performed to assess your breasts, abdomen, lungs, heart, and thyroid. It is likely a Pap smear and pelvic exam may be done.
- Discuss genetic counselling – A genetic counselling will explain your chances of having a baby with a birth defect. It may be recommended for people with a family history of genetic problems, mental retardation, or birth defects. Older mothers may also be advised to do it.
- Discuss the best way to chart menstrual cycles – Charting your menstrual cycle will help detect ovulation and determine when you are most likely to get pregnant.
- Check on your vaccination – Diseases that can be vaccinated against to prevent transmission from mother to child will be examined. If your doctor finds out that you’re not protected against rubella or chickenpox, he or she may recommend the appropriate vaccines and delaying attempts to conceive for the period of at least one month.
Preconception assessment is a practice that facilitates healthy delivery.