When a couple plans to become pregnant, they will be making important decisions that will have a significant impact on their own lives as well as the life of a growing child. Among these decisions are those involving preconception care. As with many life events, there are certain risks involved in a pregnancy. An evaluation and counseling for the mother and father can determine what genetic and lifestyle risks may be present.
What can a woman expect from a preconception office visit?
Your health care provider will probably ask you questions about your OB/GYN history: previous pregnancies, menstrual history, contraceptive use, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), Pap smears, vaginal infections. STDs and vaginal infections. These may affect a woman’s ability to conceive. Cervical cultures or blood tests can indicate whether or not there are any infections that could limit your ability to conceive
There will likely be questions about your medical or surgical history. Surgeries, transfusions, hospitalizations, pre-existing medical conditions, allergies, and current medications (including prescribed and over-the-counter medications) will all be of interest and should be mentioned.
What do you know about the health of your siblings, parents and grandparents? Hypertension, diabetes, twins, genetic factors (such as mental retardation, blindness, deafness, congenital conditions, ethnic-related diseases such as Tay-Sachs, sickle trait/sickle cell) are all points to discuss.
- How do you handle stress? Exercise? Diet? Tell your provider about lifestyle choices that involve the use of caffeine, tobacco, alcohol or recreational drugs. Your partner’s habits also should be discussed as his lifestyle may affect fertility.
- What’s it like at home and the workplace? Possible dangers such as exposure to cat feces, x-rays, lead or solvents are important to talk about.
Your health care provider may also:
- Perform a physical exam (optional): heart, lungs, breasts, thyroid, abdomen and pelvic exam. Weight and blood pressure should be recorded
- Order lab tests (optional): including rubella, hepatitis, complete blood count (CBC), Pap, HIV
- Discuss how to chart menstrual cycles: fertility awareness or the use of a fertility kit
- Prescribe a prenatal vitamin with 400-800 micrograms of folic acid
If the provider observes something in the exam and lab results, they may suggest lifestyle changes that will help insure a healthy pregnancy and baby. These suggestions may include weight loss, quitting smoking or drinking, not taking any medication that could be harmful to the pregnancy or baby, updating your immunizations, taking recommended vitamins, and avoiding stress. Note that during pregnancy, women can continue to exercise. Regular exercise (at least three times per week) is preferred over intermittent activity (altering between periods of being active and inactive). Pregnant women should stop exercising when fatigued and not exercise to exhaustion. Also, a good diet consisting of healthy food is very important. Good nutrition during pregnancy is needed for your baby to grow and develop. You should consume about 300 more calories per day than you did before you became pregnant.
How can a man prepare for his partner’s new pregnancy?
No one has all the knowledge they’ll need to best grow from the big changes that a pregnancy and new baby will bring. You, like so many others, may feel excited, overwhelmed and maybe even scared. It makes sense to take steps so that you can be more comfortable with the pregnancy. The more knowledge you have, the more you can support your partner as her needs change.
Some of the information that you and your preconception care provider will find useful involves your medical history. They may ask about your siblings, parents and grandparents as well, because some health problems are genetic and it’s useful to know if hypertension, diabetes, twins, genetic factors like mental retardation, blindness, deafness, congenital conditions, and ethnic-related diseases such as Tay-Sachs, sickle trait/sickle cell) run in your family.
Although you’re not the pregnant person, as the father your health is very important, too! Your lifestyle choices will impact those you live with and help provide for, so do what you can to understand ways to be as healthy as possible. Your healthcare provider can answer questions about smoking, stress, drugs, alcohol, exercise and diet.
There are abundant resources online, at your library or your provider’s office that will help you understand how to care for your new baby. Tasks like changing a diaper, preparing a bottle, how to install a car seat may all be new to you. Advanced preparation will make those tasks go more smoothly, so reach out!