Is a Preconception Checkup Really Necessary?
By Michele Meyer for Baby + You
Is it really important to schedule a preconception checkup as soon as you’re thinking about getting pregnant? “Most women don’t even realize they’re pregnant until after the first crucial weeks have passed, when the baby’s organs have started to form,” says Nancy Eriksen, M.D., associate professor of maternal fetal medicine at the University of Texas at Houston. “A preconception checkup is absolutely vital for a person with a personal history of birth defects or an underlying medical condition.” Here are the reasons why a preconception checkup is essential for your pregnancy wellness:
Preconception Checkup Need No. 1: Assess your health risks.
If you have high blood pressure or diabetes — the latter of which can put your baby at up to triple the risk of birth defects — your OB-GYN can discuss what precautions you should take. Other conditions you’ll need to monitor include heart disease, asthma, lupus and epilepsy.
Preconception Checkup Need No. 2: Avoid dangerous drugs.
Some prescription drugs you’re taking may harm your baby, such as some antibiotics (tetracycline), blood thinners, antiseizure drugs (Dilantin), acne-preventives (Accutane) and blood-pressure reducers (ACE inhibitors). Your doc will also be able to offer a full rundown of the over-the-counter drugs that can be harmful to your baby, like aspirin, antihistamines and diet drugs.
Preconception Checkup Need No. 3: Prepare for baby’s risks.
Your OB-GYN can help you determine whether you and your partner should receive genetic screening for conditions you could pass on to your baby.
Preconception Checkup Need No. 4: Find the right supplement.
Getting the right vitamins is essential to a healthy pregnancy; your physician can help select the best supplement for you. A prenatal vitamin should contain 400 micrograms of folic acid, which prevents the birth defect spina bifida (a condition where baby’s spinal column does not properly close). If taken within four weeks of conception, folic acid thwarts this defect, which occurs in 1 in 1,000 births.
Preconception Checkup Need No. 5: Vaccinate against disease.
To protect your baby, you may need booster shots for the measles, mumps, tetanus, polio, rubella and hepatitis B. You should get these at least three months before becoming pregnant.
Preconception Checkup Need No. 6: Get in pregnancy shape.
Your doctor is your partner in pregnancy wellness: She can offer nutrition and exercise guidelines to assist you during this demanding time. And if you’re more than 20 pounds overweight, your physician can also help you safely shed weight to reduce your risk of a number of complications.
For more pregnancy wellness tips, visit Baby + You.
Meyer has contributed to SELF, Healthy Cooking, Diabetic Living, MORE and HealthMonitor.com.