Preconception care is an essential aspect of women’s health. Preconception care focuses on women’s health, and identifying and reducing any risks before she becomes pregnant.
Preconception care covers a wide range of healthcare topics including an assessment of women’s pregnancy intentions, family planning, contraception use, health promotion, education, counseling, and referrals to appropriate disciplines across a woman’s lifespan.
Healthcare providers help guide women with adequate information to make decisions about healthy choices regarding her reproductive choices. The benefits of preconception care help to promote a healthy mother and baby for when there is an intended and in some cases an unintended pregnancy.
Current medical problems and surgical history
Some medical problems may require changes or adjustments to your approach in management before or during your pregnancy. It may be essential to have these medical problems cared for and managed before a pregnancy starts to help with having a healthy pregnancy and infant. Some of these qualifying medical conditions include heart or cardiovascular problems, diabetes, depression and seizure disorders to name a few. Speaking with your healthcare provider before becoming pregnant is always optimal for a healthy pregnancy.
Good dental hygiene is always important but is especially recommended for women wishing to become pregnant. Receiving a dental cleaning before getting pregnant is ideal as dental diseases have been shown to be linked to having babies that are born too small, and too early. Having healthy teeth and a healthy mouth will help to lead to a healthier pregnancy.
Genetic risk factors, of the women, partner and family
Some women and men are more at risk for having an infant with genetic abnormalities if they or their partner possess specific genetic traits. Some of these genetic traits can be passed on to infants which may or may not pose a health risk either immediately or long term. Chromosomal abnormalities in pregnancies from women 35 and older is also an increased risk. Discussing the risk of passing on genetic factors to a newborn is essential to discuss with your healthcare provider.
Medications that can pose a risk
The federal drug Administration FDA classifies medication based on the safety for pregnant women.
In general, pregnant women should avoid medications considered FDA Pregnancy Class D or X because of the effects the medications can have on the developing baby.
There are some medications that pose a serious harm to the infant and have the ability to cause permanent, irreversible damage. Isotretinoin (Accutane), warfarin (coumadin), phenytoin (dilantin) are just a few of the medications that are extremely harmful to the fetus.
Lifestyle risks, alcohol, drugs, smoking
Smoking in pregnancy can have serious negative effects on the woman in pregnancy and the fetus. It can also increase the risk of complications in the postpartum period. Women are encouraged to stop smoking or to cut back, as well as to avoid second hand smoke. Smoking and second hand smoke can have detrimental affects on fertility including ovulation and tubal disorders, delayed conception, increase in ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages and premature rupture of the uterine membrane.
Drinking alcohol while you’re pregnant can affect both you and your baby. The use of alcohol is also not recommended for women that are trying to conceive. To date, there is no safe level of alcohol consumption determined for women wanting to conceive. Drinking alcohol during pregnancy can lead to deleterious outcomes including, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and the development of your baby’s brain, spinal cord and other organs. It can also increase your risk of preterm labor and miscarriages.
There can be many unknown environmental exposures at home or in the workplace that can have an effect on reproduction. Limiting and avoiding these exposures is essential to maximizing a healthy pregnancy. Known substances that are harmful include metals (lead, mercury), solvents (trichloroethylene, chloroform, benzene, carbon disulfidet), vinyl monomers, pollutants (polychlorinated biphenyl PCB, polybrominated biphenyl, pesticides, gases (carbon monoxide, anesthetic gases), radiation (x-rays) antineoplastic drugs (cefalo, chemotherapy & Moos).
Nutritional risk factors
Maintaining a healthy weight is an essential component of preconception care. Being overweight is associated with many childbirth complications and can lead to high blood pressure, preeclampsia, preterm birth and gestational diabetes. It is important to health, and a healthy pregnancy to eat a balanced diet and consume an appropriate amount of calories.
Folic Acid Intake
Folic acid intake is essential before becoming pregnant in order to help with the neurological development of your baby and to help reduce the risk of neural tube defects in infants. The March of Dimes recommends taking a vitamin supplement that has 400 micrograms of folic acid in it every day if you are planning a pregnancy. You can also have a diet rich in folic acid to ensure that you are getting an adequate amount.
Foods rich in folic acid
- Leafy vegetables
- Dried peas and beans
- Fortified orange juice, breads, and cereals
Psychosocial and psychological risk factors
Pregnancy is a time when there are many changes in a woman’s hormones. Some of these changes can contribute to women having strong emotions during pregnancy leading to depression or anxiety. Discussing your psychosocial and psychological risk factors with your healthcare provider can help ensure that you are receiving the right care during pregnancy to help with these changes.
Preconception education for women
- Health promoting behaviors
- Family planning
- Lifestyle risk factors
- Prevention of sexual transmitted diseases and safe sex practices
- Alternative reproduction options
- Environmental hazards
- Stress management
- Medical risk factors (diabetes, blood pressure, asthma, seizures)
Preconception Care Guides and Resources:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Click Here
The U.S. Office for Women’s Health: Click Here
March Of Dimes: Click Here
The Ounce of Prevention Florida Fund: Click Here
U.S. Prevention Services Task Force, Folic Acid for the Prevention of Neural Tube Defects: Click Here