Before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy there are many things to organise and check.
Prior to falling pregnant, your GP can:
Talk with you about any health problems you or your partner may have
Talk about your medical history to learn about medical issues in your families
Discuss your immunisation history and organise pre-pregnancy immunisations
Discuss lifestyle issues such as drug use, alcohol use, and diet
This blog outlines some of the medical issues to consider prior to pregnancy.
Risks are associated with pregnancy at both ends of the spectrum: underweight women are at a higher risk of pre-term delivery, while overweight women may be at risk of pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, foetal abnormalities, high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia.
Women who are overweight are also more likely to have complications during labour and birth, and may require a caesarean section. Weight can also impact the success of conception.
So how can we manage this?
Weight is sometimes difficult to manage. If you have trouble controlling your weight it may be worth talking with your GP prior to conceiving to discuss ways to put on, or lose weight to maximise pregnancy health.
Folate is an essential nutrient leading up to, and in the first 3 months of pregnancy, as it helps reduce the risk of the baby developing a neural tube defect such as spinal bifida. Folate is a vitamin (B type) found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, cereals with added folate, fruit and dried beans or peas.
Currently, it is recommended women intending to fall pregnant take 0.5mg of folic acid/day for one month prior to falling pregnant, and during the first three months of pregnancy.
If you have a personal or family history of neural tube defects or cleft palate or are on regular medications that can interfere with folate in the body (such as anti-epileptics), it is important to discuss with your GP before you fall pregnant as a higher folate dose may be required.
What health checks do I need prior to falling pregnant?
Along with the two points above, a number of health checks should be conducted prior to pregnancy, including:
Cervical cancer screening: although this is safe to have in early pregnancy, you may prefer to have your pap smear prior to falling pregnant. Have a conversation with your GP about the timing of this and when you are next due for it prior to conception.
Breast check: while you may not need a formal examination at the time of conception it is a good idea to self check your breasts monthly, and see your GP for an annual examination.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): it is ideal STIs be treated before pregnancy as they can have negative effects on the developing baby. Discuss with your GP if you have any concerns about an STI.
Medical conditions & medications: it is important to discuss with your doctor any medical conditions prior to falling pregnant as the condition itself, or the medications used to manage them, may affect your pregnancy. These conditions include:
High blood pressure
Heart or liver disease
Mental health: If you have a previously diagnosed mental health condition, it is important to discuss with your medical team or psychiatrist how to manage the illness during and after your pregnancy, including managing your medications.
Gynaecological conditions: if you have a past history of any gynaecological conditions or previous miscarriages, it is important to discuss these with your doctor.
there are a number of vaccinations recommended prior to and during pregnancy. Discuss what ones you may need with your GP or medical practitioner.
Are there any changes I need to make to my lifestyle?
Lifestyle aspects are individual to each person, important factors to consider are:
Pregnancy can be an exciting time of life but it can also be stressful, and this can be worsened by other stressors in life such as family, relationship or financial issues. If feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or in need of assistance, talking with your doctor, midwife, counsellor or psychiatrist may be helpful.
It is strongly advised to limit your alcohol intake if you are planning to become pregnant, and avoid alcohol in pregnancy. Large quantities of alcohol can lead to physical or mental abnormalities in babies or growth retardation.
Avoiding cigarettes is best for both your health and your baby’s health. If you or your partner smokes, quitting before attempting to become pregnant is a good idea. If you need assistance with quitting, call QUITLINE or book an appointment to see your GP.
If you are planning for pregnancy, the best thing to do is to avoid recreational drugs as they can be harmful to you and your baby.
Book an appointment with one of our GP’s to discuss optimising your health prior to pregnancy!
The Royal Women’s Hospital, date unknown, Preparing for a healthy pregnancy, retrieved online 29/4/17, retrieved from https://www.thewomens.org.au/health-information/pregnancy-and-birth/preparing-for-pregnancy/a-healthy-start/
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