A preconception checkup is in many cases a woman’s first visit to the obstetrician’s office. It is natural to get apprehensive about this first meeting with the doctor. Would it be a question-answer session only or would it involve a physical examination too?
If you’re stuck in such a sticky situation and don’t know who to look up to for guidance, don’t worry. This article prepares you for your preconception checkup.
Importance of a Preconception Checkup
An increasing number of women are considering preconception counselling. Preconception checkups are essential as they optimize a woman’s chances of getting pregnant. In addition to this, it helps ensure a woman has a healthy pregnancy. During preconception checkups, doctors identify health and lifestyle issues that may impact a woman’s ability to conceive. Thus, preconception planning ensures that your pregnancy kicks off on a healthy note.
Following are some of the topics discussed at the preconception checkup:
Family Medical History
The doctor will enquire about the general family health of both the partners. It involves an investigation into the genetic history. Doctors want to find out if relatives- parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, grandparents suffer from specific medical conditions such as blood pressure, cholesterol, cardiac problems, cancer or stroke. The doctor will also enquire of a history of genetic disorders such as Down syndrome. Several conditions develop as a genetic predisposition. Thus, a look at the family medical history helps identify factors that could have an impact on reproduction.
Personal Medical History
The doctor will initiate an in-depth discussion on the medical history of both the partners with greater emphasis on gynecological and obstetric history. The first thing a doctor will ask is the age of both the partners. After this, he will probably move on to the serious medical (diabetes, asthma, thyroid disease, chronic hypertension, heart problems, seizure disorder or even cancers) or psychological problems the partners suffer. It will include a review of immunizations and vaccinations records. He may want to know about allergies if you suffer any. You will also have to discuss the medications you currently use and for what condition.
Veering towards your gynecological history, the doctor seeks more information about your menstrual cycles (when did your first menstruate, the length of your cycle, are your period regular and other problems), the use of contraceptives and birth control methods, previous pregnancies (miscarriages, complications during the pregnancy, labor or delivery, method of delivery, gestation period, birth weight, ectopic pregnancies, postpartum complications), if you’ve ever had an abortion or if you or your partner have ever tested positive for an STD.
Couples often find it difficult to speak to doctors about their lifestyle. However, you should not hide anything as they affect conception too. The doctor will probe into your drinking and smoking habits, the use of recreational drugs. Lifestyle questions also delve into your eating habits, exercise habits and sleep patterns. Your occupation will also be discussed under this section as your occupation will decide the extra precautions you may have to take to get pregnant at the earliest. Though this question may be addressed in personal history, the doctor may want to know if you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship and were physically, verbally or sexually abused.
The preconception checkup will include a physical exam. The doctor may recommend a Pap smear to check the health of the cervix, particularly if you are due for one and if you are above 35 years. The pelvic exam may follow too. Physicians recommended a mammogram for women trying to conceive after 40. In addition to this, you will be required to undertake a few blood tests to detect new infections and test immunity levels.
Conception Tips And pieces of Advice
Finally, the doctor will advise on how a couple can get up their chances of getting pregnant. It involves a short discussion on ovulation to help identify the times when you are the most fertile. Based on the medical and lifestyle history furnished to the doctor, he will recommend lifestyle changes. These also include the vitamins and supplements you should start taking.
A preconception checkup should be scheduled at least three months before trying for a baby. So, make your appointments and ensure you have the healthiest pregnancy possible.