Understanding Preconception Care

Understanding Preconception Care

This preventive care can dramatically improve the chances of a successful pregnancy

As soon as you decide to start a family, you should see your gynaecologist who will help you determine the steps to adopt to become physically and medically ready for a pregnancy. This is because, planning your pregnancy can help you make wise choices that will benefit both you and your baby. Preconceptional care refers to the care prior to conception. This preventive care is one of the most cost-effective and beneficial interventions, which can dramatically improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Factors For A Healthy Pregnancy

Here are the various factors which if addressed prior to conception can result in a healthy and successful pregnancy.

Adolescent (in girls less than 19 years) pregnancies are more likely to result in babies whose birth weight will below. On the other hand, older women are at greater risk for genetic abnormalities and miscarriages.

Medical History And Medications
Women with certain medical conditions may benefit from advice before becoming pregnant. Drugs taken during pregnancy, especially during the first three months could harm the baby. Hence, in certain conditions, the medications may possibly harm the pregnancy or the unborn child.

Family History
It is important to know about any baby with a congenital abnormality or mental retardation, so that your gynaecologist can carry out appropriate screening as soon as you get pregnant.

Reproductive History
Women with recurrent miscarriages, those who are older in age and those with abnormal pregnancies in the past, can benefit by testing the embryo prior to the transfer to the uterus.

Women who are obese have a greater chance of problems during pregnancy. Also, obesity poses risks for the baby as well as the mother. They are also at an increased risk for a condition called macrosomia, causing complications during labour. However, a woman who is slightly underweight should gain a few pounds to prepare for her pregnancy.

Psychiatric Disease
Psychiatric disease warrants good quality pre-pregnancy care and counselling. The estimate is that there is a 10-15 per cent risk of schizophrenia in offspring. Thus, risks of instability and potential plans for withdrawing medication must be thoroughly discussed before planning a pregnancy.

It is advisable that folic acid tablets be taken, at least three months before you become pregnant, even though you remain healthy or consume a balanced diet. By doing so, you may reduce spine problem risks like spina bifida in the new born.

Heavy drinking can cause an increased risk of miscarriage which can also lead to serious harm to the baby’s growth and brain development.

Say no to smoking! Tobacco smoke can slow the baby’s growth. Also, the risks of having a miscarriage, premature birth or still birth are higher in women who smoke.

Dental Hygiene
There has recently been scientific evidence that gum disease increases the risk of preterm delivery. Therefore, every woman should have dental care and treatment prior to pregnancy, if possible.

Some infections during pregnancy can cause birth defects or illnesses in the foetus. Vaccinations can prevent some of these infections. Hence, it’s important to be vaccinated before pregnancy, as some vaccines are not safe to use during pregnancy.

Sexually transmitted diseases come in all types and forms. These diseases not only affect the ability to conceive but can also infect and harm the baby. For instance, HIV. AIDS in pregnant women bears special attention, since treatment with anti HIV drugs has been shown to reduce the transmission of infection from mother to child.

Genetic Screening
Women from a family or partners’ family having haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia, muscular dystrophy can be offered genetic screening to detect any of these hereditary disorders. If the pregnancy is found to be affected, then the patient is counselled for termination of pregnancy.

Conditions In Which Pregnancy Is Contraindicated
There are some medical conditions like cardiac issues such as pulmonary hypertension, respiratory issues such as cystic fibrosis and kidney issues such as severe compromise of kidney function, wherein the woman should be deterred from getting pregnant since these conditions can threaten the mother’s life.

Male Preconception Care
There is expanding scientific evidence of an association between male health issues and pregnancy outcomes. A couple should attend the preconception visit together and the woman’s partner should be encouraged to be included in preconception counselling and care. It takes an average 10-11 weeks for sperm to be produced. So abstaining from smoking, alcohol and tobacco is advised three months prior to conception.

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