What happens during a preconception appointment

Getting care before pregnancy will help reduce possible risks to you and baby

What happens during a preconception appointment

You’ve reached childbearing age and you’ve started thinking about having a baby. You also need to be thinking about being as healthy as possible for pregnancy.

The right time for that begins long before you actually start trying to conceive.

Preconception care will help you minimize possible risks. A great place to start is with a checkup with your doctor that can put you on a path that leads to a healthy pregnancy and baby.

What are the benefits of a preconception appointment?

During a preconception appointment, the main goal is to review a patient’s medical history to identify issues that need attention before pregnancy – or could pose heightened risks during pregnancy.

As a patient, you can meet your potential pregnancy care provider to ask questions and feel more prepared. A provider will be able to help you make plans based on the information obtained during your visit.

What is included in a preconception appointment? Can this include a preconception exam?

Topics you can expect will be addressed during a preconception appointment include:

  • Medical and surgical history
  • Family health history
  • Genetic history
  • Current medications
  • Past pregnancies
  • Diet and lifestyle
  • Vaccination status

You may have an exam if it’s time for your cervical cancer screening with a pap smear or if you have any specific concerns. However, not all visits will require an exam.

When should a preconception appointment occur?

A preconception visit can be scheduled any time you are considering pregnancy. If you have medical conditions that may need to be optimized prior to conceiving – things like hypertension (high blood pressure) or diabetes, for instance – you will want to plan your visit far enough ahead to allow time to have these medical conditions under control before you are ready to start trying for pregnancy.

What are the most important health considerations before pregnancy?

Prior to trying for pregnancy there are many areas of a patient’s health that can be optimized:

  • Weight. A person’s body mass index (BMI) is a number calculated from height and weight. If your BMI is in the obesity range, working on weight loss prior to pregnancy may help to decrease health risks associated with pregnancy. High weight can contribute to complications such as large babies, cesarean births, hypertension and diabetes. Conversely, being underweight can increase the risk of having a baby with a low birth weight. Both can also contribute to challenges getting pregnant.
  • Exercise. Staying active prior to pregnancy and in pregnancy can also decrease risks. Setting a goal of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week and finding a routine that works best for you are healthy recommendations.
  • Vaccinations. It is recommended to be up to date on vaccinations prior to pregnancy. There are some vaccines, including influenza and Tdap, that will be recommended during pregnancy.
  • Vitamins. It is recommended to start prenatal vitamins when you start trying to conceive. Taking vitamins prior to pregnancy can help decrease the nausea and vomiting common in the first trimester. Your vitamins should contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid and 27 micrograms of iron. Folic acid is needed for neurologic development of the baby, and iron is needed to make the extra blood you and your fetus need during pregnancy.
  • Environment. Some jobs may pose risks in pregnancy. A preconception appointment can review this information and help determine if any adjustments in your work environment are needed.
  • Substance use. Substance use that includes tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, illegal drugs or prescription drugs can cause serious issues in pregnancy. Birth defects, low birth weight and stillbirths are all associated with substance use. A preconception visit can help you get the support you need.
  • Medications. Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can also cause serious risks in pregnancy. Your medication list can be discussed at a preconception visit to make sure you are on safe medications before conceiving.

How will my provider measure my risks?

Your preconception visit will allow your provider to take all the information from your medical history and formulate a plan that targets a healthy pregnancy. For certain medical conditions such as hypertension, the provider will set specific goals for where you should be prior to conceiving. The provider will work with you to help meet these goals.

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Posted In Health Information, Pregnancy, Women's