Ready for a Baby This Year?
Preconception planning for a healthy pregnancy
“Pregnant women now are a little bit of a different crowd,” says Dr. Boris Petrikovsky, chairman of the OB-GYN department at Nassau University Medical Center in New York. “As a group, they’re older, more educated, more financially stable, and more aware of how their preconception health can impact their pregnancy and their baby. Preconception planning is not only trendy, but also important to the health of mother and baby during the pregnancy and in the future.”
Talking About Pregnancy
The first thing women considering getting pregnant need to do is talk with their relatives and their partner’s relatives about the family medical history. Ask if the parents or grandparents had a history of miscarriages or any genetic birth defects. Ask if diabetes runs in the family, or if there are any other potentially inheritable diseases. Consider your ethnicity. If you’re African-American or Mediterranean, your doctor may want to test you for sickle cell disease. If you’re Caucasian and have a family history of cystic fibrosis, your doctor may run a test for that disease.
Next, the couple should consider their own health and habits. Is the woman older than 35? If so, she needs to be aware of potential birth defects associated with having a baby at an older age. Are the woman’s immunizations up-to-date and are they still effective?
“You want to be sure your vaccinations are current for rubella, chicken pox, and tetanus,” says Dr. Jill Powell, OB-GYN and professor at the Saint Louis University School of Medicine. “If you’re not sure, you should be tested for immunity prior to becoming pregnant. If a woman contracts rubella or chicken pox when she’s pregnant, it can have serious consequences for her and the baby.”
Do you like to spend time in the hot tub? The hot water could cause fertility problems for the man and can cause closure of the neural tube in the woman, which could lead to spina bifida, according to Dr. Powell.
Once you have the answers to those questions, it’s time to schedule a preconception checkup with your doctor. The doctor should go over your health and family history, discuss any medications you’re currently taking and, in some cases, consider switching your medication. Your doctor will also do a Pap smear, listen to your heart and lungs, take your blood pressure, and run a simple blood and urine test if you haven’t had one in the past year, according to Dr. Petrikovsky. You may also want to be tested for HIV, which may affect your decision or your treatment during pregnancy.
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