Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You shouldn’t rely on this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
When you start thinking about adding a baby to your family, it may seem as simple as stopping birth control, and, well, having some sex. But preconception is an important time for the future of you and your pregnancy. It’s worth meeting with your OB/GYN to make a plan.
Preconception care can help reduce complications for you and the baby, by equipping you with vital knowledge and improving your health. Start by setting up a preconception counseling appointment with your doctor. In this appointment, you will review your medical history, including any prior pregnancies, your gynecologic history, medications, and your lifestyle. Your doctor may also conduct pre-pregnancy testing (more on that below).
Not thinking of getting pregnant right away? These tests and conversations can also happen at your annual visit so that you can have all the knowledge you need to make decisions in the future.
Here are some examples of what you might discuss with your doctor at a preconception appointment:
Your medical history:
Pre-existing medical conditions. If you struggle with conditions like high blood pressure, asthma, or diabetes, they need to be under control before you attempt to conceive. These conditions can affect your health and the health of the baby
Weight. A healthy body mass index (BMI 18-25) is important for pregnancy, so overweight or underweight women should be counseled on reaching a healthy weight.
Your pregnancy history:
Discuss any history of miscarriages or fetal loss
Review any risk factors from prior pregnancy like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, pre-term delivery, or c-section. Experiencing these conditions in a previous pregnancy can increase risk in your future pregnancy.
Your gynecologic history:
The regularity of your periods
History of STIs, and pelvic inflammatory disease. Your doctor might also suggest screening for infections at this point.
Any other gynecological problems like endometriosis, PCOS or fibroids
Make sure all medications you take are safe for pregnancy and stop or adjust any that could be dangerous, such as seizure medications
Start taking a prenatal vitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid
If you take any medications for anxiety or depression, you should discuss it with your doctor. Many SSRIs can be continued throughout pregnancy, although benzodiazepines like Xanax should be tapered and stopped.
Discuss healthy eating habits, including what foods to avoid during pregnancy
Review your exercise habits and weight management
If you use tobacco or recreational drugs, it’s important to stop before you get pregnant. You may want to consider drinking less, as moderate to heavy drinking can impact fertility.
Discuss any hazards in your job or environment that could impact your health.
Family medical history of genetic problems:
Review any family history of birth defects like heart or neural tube defects, as well as genetic issues like Down syndrome, sickle cell disease, or cystic fibrosis.
Your age should also be taken into consideration, as the risk of genetic issues like Down syndrome increases with age.
Your doctor may want to test your immunity levels to rubella and varicella. If your immunity has faded, you can get a new vaccination before you become pregnant.
People of Ashkenazi Jewish descent can be tested for a panel of genetic diseases that are more prevalent within this population
Your doctor may refer you to a genetic counselor if there is a family history of genetic disease on either the mother’s or father’s side.