Preconception planning: Is your body baby ready?

5:10 AM, Dec 21, 2018
9:31 AM, Jun 12, 2019

It’s December, and if you are thinking about expanding your family, you may not be alone. September is the most popular birth month in America.

If you’ve decided to get pregnant, you might be emotionally prepared to have a baby — but is your body ready?

It seems that the holiday season is a very busy, busy one for American parents-to-be.

“So according to current data, the most popular birth month is in September, which means that conception occurs most commonly in this month of December,” said Corpus Christi Medical Center Obstetrics and Gynecology Dr. Denise Lochner.

Before there’s a baby to care for, one should schedule a checkup with her doctor.

“They are going to want to review your past medical history,  particularly diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, thyroid issues, all of those medical conditions have significant impact on your pregnancy. And you want to make sure they are under good control, and you’re on medications which are safe if you are planning on getting pregnant,” said Lochner.

When you are trying to get pregnant, there are certain things you need to do prior to planning.

“One of the big things that people should do is begin taking prenatal vitamins; in particular, you are looking for vitamins which have at least 400 mcg of folic acid. In addition, if you are a smoker, it is a good idea to cut back on smoking and ideally stop smoking. You want to minimize alcohol use; if you are using illicit drugs, cutting back on that, and preferably stopping would be the safest for your pregnancy,” said Lochner.

If your immunizations aren’t complete, or you’re not sure if you’re immune to certain infections, remember immunization protects both the baby and the mother before and during pregnancy.

“There are a couple of medical conditions such as Rubella or German Measles as well as Varicella, which is Chickenpox, which can actually cause birth defects during pregnancy if you develop the condition.  So if you are unsure of your vaccinations status, that would be another thing you want to talk to your doctor about to make sure you are a immune, and if you are not immune, to receive the vaccines before you are pregnant,” said Lochner.

To help ensure a healthy pregnancy, schedule a preconception appointment with your health care provider as soon as you begin thinking about pregnancy.

What type of birth control have you been using?

If you’ve been taking combination birth control pills — whether conventional or extended cycle — your period is expected to return within 30 days after stopping the pill. You don’t need to take a pill-free break before trying to conceive.

However, it’ll be somewhat easier to estimate when you ovulated and when your baby is due if you have at least one normal period before conceiving. If you plan to wait a few months, use condoms while your menstrual cycle gets back to normal.

If you’ve been using certain types of long-term birth control, such as progestin injections, your return to fertility might take somewhat longer. Still, 50 percent of women who discontinue progestin injections to become pregnant conceive within 10 months after the last shot.

Are your vaccines current?

Infections such as chickenpox (varicella) and German measles (rubella) can be dangerous for an unborn baby.

If your immunizations aren’t complete or you’re not sure if you’re immune to certain infections, your preconception care might include blood tests to check for immunity or one or more vaccines — preferably at least one month before you try to conceive.

Do you have any chronic medical conditions?

If you are obese or have a chronic medical condition — such as diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure — make sure it’s under control before you conceive.

In some cases, your health care provider might recommend adjusting your medication or other treatments before pregnancy.

Your health care provider also will explain any special care you might need during pregnancy.

Are you taking any medications or supplements?

Tell your health care provider about any medications, herbs or supplements you’re taking. Depending on the product, your health care provider might recommend changing doses, switching to something else or stopping the product before you conceive.

This is also the time to start taking prenatal vitamins. The baby’s neural tube — which becomes the brain and spinal cord — develops during the first month of pregnancy, possibly before you even know that you’re pregnant.

Taking prenatal vitamins before conception helps prevent neural tube defects.

Are you at risk of a sexually transmitted infection?

Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia can interfere with your ability to conceive. These infections also pose risks to both mother and baby during pregnancy.

If you’re at risk of a sexually transmitted infection — or you think you or your partner might have an infection — ask your health care provider about preconception screening and treatment.

Do you have a family history of any specific medical conditions?

Sometimes family medical history — either yours or your partner’s — increases the risk of having a child who has certain medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, or birth defects. If genetic conditions are a concern, your health care provider might refer you to a genetic counselor for a preconception assessment.

How old are you and your partner?

As maternal age increases, the risk of fertility problems, pregnancy loss and certain chromosomal conditions increases.

Some pregnancy-related complications, such as gestational diabetes, also are more common in older mothers.

The age of the baby’s father can play a role, too. Your health care provider can help you put any risks intoperspective, as well as develop a plan to give your baby the best start.

Have you been pregnant before?

Your health care provider will ask about previous pregnancies. Be sure to mention any complications you might have had, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preterm labor, premature birth or birth defects, or pregnancies that required a C-section.

If you had a previous pregnancy involving a neural tube defect, your health care provider will likely recommend a higher daily dose of folic acid than what’s found inmost prenatal vitamins.

If you have any concerns or fears about another pregnancy, share them with your health care provider. He or she will help you understand the best ways to boost your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

Does your current lifestyle support a healthy pregnancy?

Healthy lifestyle choices during pregnancy are essential. For example:

  • Your health care provider will discuss the importance of a healthy diet, regular physical activity and managing stress.
  • If you’re underweight or overweight, your health care provider might recommend addressing your weight before you conceive.
  • It’s also important to avoid alcohol, illegal drugs and exposure to toxic substances.
  • If you smoke, ask your health care provider about resources to help you quit.

If possible, ask your partner to attend the preconception visit with you. Your partner’s health and lifestyle are important because they can affect both you and the baby.

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