Why do you need preconception appointment?

Svetlana January 01 2022

Preconception Appointment - what should you know?

Preconception care, also known as pre-conceptual care, is the health promotion and disease prevention that takes place before pregnancy.   It can start at puberty and continues up to the post-pregnancy stage. It includes providing comprehensive medical and reproductive history in order to identify risks or issues, such as high blood pressure or diabetes mellitus. This leads to an increased awareness of a patient's risk factors for diseases that may occur during pregnancy.

The goals of preconception care are preventing birth defects, choosing a healthy lifestyle, planning the best time to get pregnant, identifying exposure to infections that could harm a developing baby, recognizing early signs of complications, checking for rubella immunity, testing for sickle cell disease, and reviewing family history for genetic disorders.

It also includes counseling on healthy lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking or excessive drinking, making sure that vaccinations are up to date, receiving health screenings for diseases that can occur during pregnancy, and maintaining a nutritious diet with adequate folic acid. Folic Acid is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts & beans. It helps the development of the spine & brain in developing babies. Folic acid should be taken at least one month before pregnancy can take place.

Record your pregnancy!

One of the most important reasons why you need preconception appointments is that your doctor will be writing the history during your visits. For many women, it is difficult to remember everything that happened during a given month of the previous year, let alone 5 years ago.

You should take notes on each visit and bring them with you for future appointments. Also, save copies of lab results/reports from ultrasounds/imaging studies so you have the results as soon as possible after they are provided to you!

Before pregnancy can begin, women must first be tested for rubella immunity. If not immune, vaccination against it will be required before conception takes place. At least 3 months before trying to conceive, have a fasting lipid profile test done in order to see where your cholesterol levels stand. The results will help determine if a woman needs preconception counseling to reduce her risk of pregnancy complications.

Women should plan to take a prenatal vitamin every day while they are trying to conceive and for at least 3 months before becoming pregnant.

Your doctor will be able to advise you how best to balance your health, fitness, and lifestyle before pregnancy. This way you can ensure that you are as healthy as possible when the good news happens!   It is also important because it allows your healthcare provider time to provide important vaccines which protect both you and your baby-to-be.   

Finally, this period of time is the perfect opportunity for any necessary tests, including genetic testing which may help detect certain conditions. Preconception appointments are also a great time to discuss family history with doctors who might find out if there are specific risks that affect more than one generation in your family.

Avoid unnecessary medication

Your doctor or midwife will talk with you about any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) you are taking and if there is any way to avoid them during pregnancy.

It's important to remember that many over-the-counter remedies, such as medications for colds or flu, may contain ingredients that your doctors advise against during pregnancy so it's best to speak with a healthcare professional before using these types of products.

Couples should also talk with their health care provider about any prescription drug use and when/if they can safely become pregnant after stopping any medication they were taking.

Health screening

Each time you go to a preconception appointment, your doctor will go over all the important health screenings you need to prepare for pregnancy. These include blood tests, rubella immunity, thyroid function test, anemia check, and many more!

Your doctor or midwife will explain why these screenings are necessary in order to identify certain conditions in time. Having this information early can help increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy outcome.

Do not forget that some women may be at risk for gestational diabetes. If you fall into this category then your doctor might want you to have another glucose tolerance test before becoming pregnant.

Once you become pregnant there are even more screening tests that will be required during pregnancy. Your doctor will let you know when these tests are scheduled so it's best to be prepared.

It is extremely important for you to be aware of anything that would potentially endanger your baby. Always tell your doctor about any drug use, illegal activities and lifestyles choices such as smoking so they can give you the best possible care.

Preconception appointments also allow doctors to start thinking about what tests they may need during pregnancy and birth so they can prepare in advance while there is still time to order some necessary tests.

Medical and obstetric history

If you want to become a parent, you need to take care of your health, and thus, make a good medical and obstetric history.

Your doctor will ask you some questions about your family's medical history, such as: has anyone in your family had gestational diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension), preeclampsia, or chromosomal abnormalities?

That is because sometimes these problems can be passed on to the next generation through genetics. Finding out if there are any potential risks is important so you and your baby get the best care possible.

If you have previously been pregnant and given birth, then of course your doctor will want to know about this too including what type of birth control method you used before becoming pregnant? You may also need to discuss what happened during each pregnancy and delivery so that your doctor knows how the baby and you did.

All of this information and more will help your doctor know what to look out for when preparing for pregnancy, during pregnancy and when it comes time to deliver the baby.

In addition, they will suggest different plans regarding how often you should come in for prenatal care, which tests to have performed regularly throughout your pregnancy, and counseling which can include everything from giving birth to breastfeeding.

What do statistics say?

Research has shown that preconception appointments are very beneficial with a staggering 74% of women who attended one before becoming pregnant felt was a positive experience.

Almost all women who attended a preconception appointment believed they were in better health after returning from their trip to the doctor. In fact, 96% of women reported that they learned something new about their own health, 79% thought the appointment was helpful in terms of planning for pregnancy and 76% felt it helped them prepare.

In a nutshell, women who attended a preconception appointment before trying to conceive were more likely to become pregnant within 1 year than those who did not! This goes to show just how important these appointments are even before you try to get pregnant.

Women who attend preconception appointments reported that their doctors answered all their questions and they felt comfortable talking to them openly about any concerns or issues they may have. As a result, the majority of women reported higher satisfaction levels because they no longer had any worries or questions left unanswered after leaving this first visit. 

But don`t worry if you do not have time to prepare for this appointment because they are designed to help you feel prepared.

How should you behave?

During your preconception appointment, be sure to ask any questions that you may have, tell your doctor about any fears or worries you may have, and share with them anything that's on your mind. Your doctor can not predict everything so it is important for you to speak up so they can provide the best possible care during pregnancy and after delivery.

Don't forget to bring any medical records of past pregnancies and births along too. Also bring any medication that you currently take as well as a list of drugs that family members regularly use, including prenatal vitamins. Make sure all of these items are properly labeled just in case there is storage space at the office.

Do not be afraid to mention any past or present illness, injury, or disability because your doctor will need this information. If you suffer from a chronic disease such as high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy or diabetes then list that too because all of these can affect your ability to become pregnant and/or carry a baby to term.

You always can ask for a referral from your doctor if you wish to see a specialist, like an obstetrician or registered midwife. You should also ask about making future appointments with the same doctor (s) that you hope will be looking after you during your pregnancy.

Now that we know what can happen during this first appointment, let's discuss some of the tests and counseling that typically take place at these appointments.

What happens during these visits?

During this visit, your doctor will likely perform several tests including blood work (to test for various types of infections), STD screening (if not already done previously), ultrasound (so they can look at the baby's development), and Pap smear (to screen for any pre-cancers or cancer).

Your doctor will also likely update your dietary and lifestyle habits. They may recommend a daily prenatal vitamin that should be taken before trying to conceive, increased consumption of folic acid, pre or postnatal exercise, quitting smoking, or any other modification to your behavior for the benefit of your baby.

This is just a list of some things that can come up during these visits so remember not everything mentioned here will take place but you should have a good idea of what kind of questions they may ask. Also, if there are specific issues you would like help with then feel free to bring this up too.

Should you come alone or with a partner?

You can bring a partner along as well as other family members such as your parents. While most couples choose to come together, they may also decide it is best if only one comes instead which is completely understandable and acceptable too.

What will happen after the visit?

After your first appointment, you should receive a copy of all your records and a list of follow-up appointments. They will likely incorporate the following care plan: prenatal appointments, delivery, and postnatal care. These three types of visits are vital for both you and your baby's health so make sure you keep this time open on your calendar at least until 2 years after delivery which gives them ample time to adjust to their new world!

Remember, all of these appointments are equally important so do not be intimidated by the first one. Just like everything else in life, it will get easier with time and practice!

How can you know that the doctor is qualified enough?

In case you are afraid of having to deal with inexperienced or incompetent doctors, make sure you check their qualifications and their personal history. Make sure they are certified to practice in at least one province (or state) first of all. Then each new province (and state) should be investigated for any past record of malpractice or negligence. You can also call the provincial (or state) medical board if you want but it is usually not necessary since your doctor will likely have good standing.

Bottom line

A preconception appointment is generally the first visit where your doctor will go over health issues. Most people are nervous about their appointments but it is important to remember that most doctors are trained to help you with many different things.

It's always good to bring a partner along and while most people choose this, they can also choose to come alone which is great too! Don't be scared of making changes in your life and don't be afraid of asking questions because if there's one thing we all know, it's that doctors love talking about themselves.