In your heart and mind, you may be ready to start the journey toward motherhood—but is your body ready? Find out by scheduling a preconception checkup with your OB-GYN. Dr. Mark Chames, MD, an obstetrician specializing in high-risk pregnancies at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor says he'd love for every woman to talk to her doctor before conceiving. That's because many of the complications of pregnancy sow their seeds in the earliest weeks and months, before a woman is even aware she is pregnant.
During a preconception visit, Dr. Chames says most doctors will review a woman's medical history and address a lot of things related to pregnancy, such as genetic history. For example, if there's a neural tube defect in the family, your doctor will discuss the importance of taking folic acid before getting pregnant, and so on.
Those first few weeks are so vital to development that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a Preconception Summit in June 2005 to focus on better educating women about preparing their bodies for pregnancy. According to the CDC, nearly 28 percent of pregnant women in the United States suffer complications during their pregnancies each year. Many of those complications, from gestational diabetes to low birth weight, can be avoided with good preconception care, CDC experts say.
"We want to make sure that women are healthy before they get pregnant," says Dr. Hani Atrash, MD, medical director for the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "There is solid scientific evidence that interventions work. Things like taking folic acid, stopping smoking, stopping alcohol. We have been successful in preventing the causes of infant mortality that are preventable."
During your preconception visit, expect to do a lot of talking, says Dr. Chames. It is a chance for your doctor to educate you on staying healthy, and for you to ask questions. Your OB-GYN will recommend several tests and talk to you about the lifestyle changes you should make to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Here are seven areas you should discuss with your doctor.