The focus of preconception care is to guide women toward achieving optimal reproductive health before they become pregnant. Attaining a state of best preconception health is the surest way toward a safe healthy pregnancy with a good outcome. Preconception care looks at a woman's environment and any possible risk factors that might affect a pregnancy, or a woman's overall fertility.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) has recommended that all women of an age to bear children should be in good childbearing health. It matters not if you've been pregnant before, have already had a baby, or plan never to become pregnant—during your childbearing years, you should be taking care of your reproductive health.
During an appointment with a preconception health care provider, you will be assessed for personal habits and lifestyle behaviors that may be harmful to a future fetus or to your future fertility. Such issues as prescription medication will be addressed: is there a substitute medication that is safer for a woman's reproductive health? Your health care provider can examine such issues and help you make informed decisions about your own preconception health.
The hope is that by counseling women about the dangers of smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, for instance, any fetus that is produced will have the safest possible environment for healthy growth and development. Preconception counseling can help teach women about taking folic acid in advance of pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects in their babies during the first few weeks after conception. A woman will also learn about how to eliminate risks in the workplace and at home. This is preemptive care at its finest and is meant to ensure that all the right measures are in place before conception takes place, when such measures may already be too late.
Genetic Risks and Pregnancy
Women can also learn about how to avoid the dangers of substance abuse and what substances may be harmful to their health or to that of a developing fetus. During preconception care appointments, women are also introduced to topics that might affect any future pregnancies such as genetic risk factors, mental health issues like depression, and domestic violence.
Preconception care is essential for women with preexisting health conditions that might affect a developing fetus. For this reason, preconception care is tailored to each woman. Diabetes, for instance, doesn't have to have a negative impact on a growing embryo, but it's crucial that a woman get her condition under proper control before becoming pregnant.
The CDC hopes to encourage preconception care for all women in their childbearing years, since the United States has the worst statistics for birth outcomes than all other developed nations. In this section, we help you learn how to make your reproductive years safe, healthy, and happy.