10 things to discuss at a preconception gynecology visit
Whether you’re actively trying to get pregnant or just like to plan ahead, scheduling a preconception visit with your gynecologist is beneficial, according to Aparna Sridhar, MD, UCLA OB/GYN.
“A preconception visit will help you take the necessary steps to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby,” says Dr. Sridhar. “This important visit looks not just at your reproductive health, but at your overall health.”
Dr. Sridhar says you should plan to use a preconception appointment to discuss the following with your OB/GYN:
- Pregnancy goals: When would you like to get pregnant? How many total children would you eventually like to have? How do you want to space your pregnancies?
- Medical conditions: Plan to discuss any major medical problems you’ve had. Your gynecologist can let you know what effects they may have on pregnancy (as well as what effects pregnancy may have on medical conditions.) Also, discuss:
- Past surgeries. Some abdominal surgeries can affect pregnancy or your ability to get pregnant.
- Menstrual history, to identify if abnormalities in your cycle could cause problems with getting pregnant.
- Medications: Bring a list of all the medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter supplements, so your gynecologist can determine if they are safe for pregnant women. If you require a drug that is unsafe during pregnancy, your doctor will identify an alternative.
- Supplements: Begin folic acid supplements when you are trying to conceive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking 400 micrograms (mcg) each day to help prevent brain and spinal birth defects. Your gynecologist will help you determine if you need more (or less) than the recommendation.
- Family history and genetic conditions: Be prepared to discuss family medical histories for you and your partner. Before your preconception visit, spend time collecting information from grandparents, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins about any health concerns that run in your family or your partner’s family. If necessary, your gynecologist can refer you to a genetic counselor.
- Lifestyle and social situations: Be honest with your gynecologist if you smoke, drink alcohol or use marijuana or other drugs. Also, let your provider know if you are:
- Exposed to harmful chemicals or substances (such as solvents, asbestos or mercury) either at work or in your home.
- A victim of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. It is crucial to address violence before getting pregnant.
- Immunizations: Infections during pregnancy can cause birth defects, so bring documentation of your immunizations to your preconception visit. Your doctor will:
- Check if vaccination or prior exposure to rubella and chickenpox has already protected you (this is done with a simple blood test).
- Recommend you get the flu shot every year, especially if you are trying to get pregnant.
- Infectious diseases: Be prepared to discuss any history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), previously referred to as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Examples include chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes or HIV. The CDC warns that STIs can have debilitating effects for parents and the fetus. Your OB/GYN will determine whether an STI screening is needed.
- Healthy weight: An ideal pre-pregnancy weight can help you achieve a healthy pregnancy. A body mass index (BMI) over 30 is considered overweight or obese and can cause problems with conception and pregnancy. You can discuss how to reach and maintain an ideal weight during your preconception visit.
- Healthy mind and stress reduction: Discuss how you feel about your life and your mental health in general. Talk with your gynecologist if you have a pre-diagnosed condition to learn how it affects pregnancy or is affected by pregnancy. Your doctor may also recommend techniques for reducing stress while you are trying to conceive or when you are pregnant.
“Preconception health care can make a difference to your pregnancy, and to the health of your baby,” says Dr. Sridhar. “It is so important for men and women to make time for this type of visit.”