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Preconception care produces healthier babies. It does this by helping a woman get in good health before conception and by identifying any possible medical, genetic, or environmental risks she may be exposed to. Many women may be in contact with chemicals or medications which are harmful to a developing baby.
Since the baby's major organs are formed during the first 2 months of pregnancy, we need to start pregnancy care before conception. To start care before conception requires planning. But this planning is critical in making "every child a wanted child" and every pregnancy as healthy as possible for both mother and baby.
Simple things like getting immunized for rubella, or taking folic acid supplements, can play a major role in decreasing birth defects - if it is done before conception. The fact is, the first prenatal visit, traditionally done after a woman is pregnant, is really too late.
Ask your healthcare provider for a preconception health visit.
All women would benefit from a discussion of:
A well-balanced diet is important, with special emphasis on three nutrients: calcium, iron, and folic acid. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that every woman of childbearing age take FOLIC ACID 0.4 mg preconceptionally to reduce her chance of having a baby with a neural tube defect. Consumption of folic acid should ideally start at least 1 month BEFORE conception.
Guidelines for safety during pregnancy may necessitate a change in your normal routine.
Infections such as rubella (German measles) and varicella (chickenpox) can cause birth defects and many serious complications to both the mother and baby during pregnancy. Vaccination BEFORE pregnancy can prevent the complications due to these infections. Many women may also benefit from hepatitis vaccinations.
Alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs all contribute to poor pregnancy outcomes.
Certain medical conditions need special attention before pregnancy. For example, being in good glucose control preconceptionally can significantly decrease the incidence of birth defects for a diabetic woman. Infections, particularly from sexually transmitted diseases, should be screened for and treated prior to pregnancy. Since infection to HIV (the AIDS virus) is often asymptomatic and occurs in women who think they have no risk factors, it is a good idea for ALL women to get an HIV (AIDS) test routinely. Treatment of HIV positive women in early pregnancy can significantly decrease the transmission of this deadly virus to their babies.
The safety of prescribed and over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins, needs to be established on an individual basis.
A review of family history and ethnic background may show predispositions to certain genetic disorders.
Exposure to certain chemicals, lead, mercury, and other factors (even heat, "hyperthermia") may be teratogenic (cause birth defects).There are also many misconceptions concerning safety of home and work hazards (video display terminals, hair dyes, microwave ovens, fish, water) which should be addressed.
The partner's exposure to harmful agents and social habits may have an impact on the couple's reproductive outcomes.
Stress, long hours, hard physical labor, prolonged standing, domestic violence - all can affect pregnancy and fertility.
The average cost of having a baby and raising a child is considerable. Planning ahead for employment and health insurance should be done.
When pregnancy is desired, there usually is a transition period from contraception to conception. Knowing some general principles makes this transition an easy one.
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