Why Men & Women Need Preconception Health Care

August 17, 2010

Three Months Minimum for Preconception Care

The concept behind a preconception health care visit with a medical professional is to ensure that a woman is in the best possible health before she conceives a pregnancy so her pregnancy will go well and her baby will thrive. It is a good idea for both men and women to prepare for pregnancy at least three months before they plan to conceive, and for some women, preparations should be made even farther out. Reaching a healthy weight may take up to a year for some women, and quitting an addiction can take a long time too. These things, as well as cessation of smoking and drinking and adjusting any medications that are taken regularly take time so it's a good idea to prepare the body well in advance of getting pregnant.

When planning for pregnancy, other things a couple may need to address with a health care professional could include partner domestic violence, mental health, and any problems with previous pregnancies. Even though men and women can do a lot on their own, a professional is necessary to uncover and deal with existing health problems as well as helping a woman attain her best possible health before conception.

Five Important Aspects of Self-Care

The most important things a woman can do on her own to ensure good preconception health include taking 400mcg of folic acid a day for at least three months before conception. Folic acid helps to reduce neural tube defects. She should stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Ensure that any medical conditions are under control and being managed well. If there needs to be a change in medication to support a pregnancy, then those changes should be talked about and made as required. Such conditions as asthma, obesity, epilepsy, diabetes, and oral health need to be addressed by a physician and a plan made to support a pregnancy while dealing with these health issues. Over-the-counter medications, prescription medicines, dietary supplements and herbal aids all should be gone over with a doctor to be sure there is nothing that is dangerous for an unborn baby or for the mother. Environmental toxins and exposure to toxic substances and potentially infectious materials should be avoided in the home and workplace.

Preconption Care Is Important for Men As Well

Even though most of the focus of preconception health is geared to women, men have a big part to play in helping their partners or family members achieve excellent preconception health. Their encouragement and support can make a difference. Men who work with toxic materials and products must be careful not to expose women to them - that includes fertilizers and pesticides in jobs dealing with agriculture. Work clothes should be changed before coming near the woman, and clothing should be washed separately.

Equally important is the health history of the man when a pregnancy is being planned. Genetic risks from both sides need to be understood by the practitioner in order to provide sound advice and testing. To ensure infections aren't passed to a woman, men need to be screened for STDs and treated if necessary. By taking care of himself properly with good diet, exercise, avoiding alcohol, smoking and drugs, and seeing his own health care provider for discussion about medications, a man is helping and involved in the preconception health care plan.

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