Preconception Health

August 17, 2010

A Safe Womb

While we all tend to fantasize that the womb is a very safe place, a warm and cozy cocoon for an unborn baby, the fact of the matter is that pregnancy is a time when the delicate formation of a baby is under constant assault from all kinds of external forces. That's why it is so important for a woman and her partner to ensure preconception care is instituted long before conception takes place. Preconception care provides health promotion, screening and interventions for women of reproductive age in order to reduce the risk factors that could affect future pregnancies and childbirths.

Why Does A Woman Need Preconception Care?

Preconception health care is designed to identify, assess, and alter any biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman's health and pregnancy, using both prevention and management of health issues that need attention before conception for maximum impact. Although the primary focus of preconception care is women of reproductive age, men are also part of the equation and they, too, should be made aware of several components of this type of care.

It has been proven that prenatal care, which usually begins at the end of the first trimester, occurs too late in the pregnancy to prevent a number of health problems that are serious for both mother and baby. Certain problems are far more likely to occur in the first four to ten weeks after conception and since many women don't even know they are pregnant until after this very critical period, the risks to their babies and themselves is not reduced in time.

Even Women Who Aren't Planning Pregnancy Should Be Aware

Nearly half of all the pregnancies in the US are unplanned, and in view of this fact, even women who aren't planning to conceive should be aware of how their lifestyle could affect a pregnancy. Such risk factors as alcohol, which is never safe during pregnancy, and smoking which severely impacts the size, weight, and health of the unborn baby, are two major concerns. Anti-epileptic drugs, like valproic acid, are known to be the cause of fetal malformations, so a woman who is taking these drugs needs to have a lower dosage to lessen the risk. Birth defects in babies born to women with diabetes can be reduced with the proper management of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Other preconception risks include taking oral anticoagulants (blood-thinning drugs), such as warfarin, which has shown to cause birth malformations. Women taking these types of drugs should be switched to an anticoagulant that is safer when they are considering conception. Ectopic pregnancy and infertility are strongly tied to sexually transmitted diseases - especially untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea. Fetal death or major disabilities are also linked to STDs in pregnancy.

An Ounce of Prevention: Prepregnacny Care

Preconception health applies to women who have never been pregnant as well as to women who could have another pregnancy, and it checks into the factors present in a woman's life that could adversely affect an unborn baby or infant. Prescription drugs, drinking alcohol, recreational drug use, and smoking are part of these considerations. By promoting safe and healthy behaviors, environments and strong supports for women, preconception health is a huge factor in successful pregnancies and successful outcomes.

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