Prepare for pregnancy with a preconception appointment

By Parul Nagar, D.O.
Hallmark Health Medical Associates

Dr. Parul Nagar

Dr. Parul Nagar

Sometimes pregnancy is a surprise. Other times it’s been in the plans for years. When that’s the case, one of the best things you can do to prepare for a successful pregnancy is to schedule a preconception appointment.

Quite a few of my patients have a preconception appointment before they become pregnant. Up to a year before conception, we can develop a plan to optimize your health. If you’ve been pregnant before, you know it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The preconception appointment is a way to help you train for that marathon.

By making some day-to-day adjustments, our goal is to prepare you physically and emotionally for a healthy pregnancy.

Do I need a preconception appointment?

If you’ve never heard of a preconception appointment, you may be skeptical if you need one. I understand that feeling.

Here’s what we know for sure — seeking preconception care before pregnancy has been shown to significantly improve pregnancy outcomes. By meeting with a physician to address your health before conception, we can help you can improve your odds for a successful pregnancy. We recommend that the preconception appointment take place anywhere from three months to one year prior to conception.

What happens during a preconception visit?

The preconception visit starts with a conversation. It’s a perfect time to ask questions and to build a relationship with your doctor.

We’ll cover your medical history, any prior pregnancies, and family medical history. You’ll want to be prepared to talk about those things, as well as birth control methods you’ve used, your Pap smear history, and any prior STDs or infections you have had.

We’ll do a complete physical exam, and then make a plan to address any conditions you may have or barriers to a successful pregnancy. We will test for thyroid issues, diabetes, hepatitis, and HIV. We’ll address any issues with medications or refer you to a specialist to lower your risks before pregnancy.

At this appointment, we’ll also talk about lifestyle changes that may be beneficial to you and your baby-to-be. We may go over ways to lose weight, quit smoking, or how to get clean from substance abuse. All these factors can impact the growth of the baby.

Before you leave, we’ll probably write you a prescription for folic acid, which is proven to lower the risk of neural tube defects in babies. Neural tube defects can lead to spina bifida or anencephaly, which cause permanent disability or death.

It’s important for women to take folic acid as a supplement rather than just trying to eat foods that contain more of it. The supplement will be absorbed quicker.

In the best case scenario, we would start a patient on 400 micrograms of folic acid if there are no medical issues present and they are not taking any other medication every day. This practice should begin three months prior to conception.

If you have an unplanned pregnancy

A little more than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Not everyone has the benefit of meeting with a doctor before they conceive.

If this happens, it’s important to talk to an OB/GYN as soon as you can. If there are health concerns or other factors that may influence your health or the health of your baby, the sooner those are addressed, the better.

If you’re considering starting a family or you’d like to learn more about becoming pregnant, schedule an appointment online with one of our OB/GYNs or call 855-446-2362.

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