Plan and Prepare for Pregnancy
If you are planning to become pregnant, taking certain steps can help reduce risks to both you and your baby. Proper health before deciding to become pregnant is almost as important as maintaining a healthy body during pregnancy.
The first few weeks are crucial in a child's development. However, many women do not realize they are pregnant until several weeks after conception. Planning ahead and taking care of yourself before becoming pregnant is the best thing you can do for you and your baby.
One of the most important steps in helping you prepare for a healthy pregnancy is a pre-pregnancy examination (often called preconceptual care) performed by your physician before you become pregnant. This examination may include any/all of the following:
- family medical history - an assessment of the maternal and paternal medical history - to determine if any family member has had any medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and/or mental retardation.
- genetic testing - an assessment of any possible genetic disorders - as several genetic disorders may be inherited, such as sickle cell anemia (a serious blood disorder which primarily occurs in African-Americans) or Tay-Sachs disease (a nerve breakdown disorder marked by progressive mental and physical retardation which primarily occurs in individuals of Eastern European Jewish origin). Some genetic disorders can be detected by blood tests before pregnancy.
- personal medical history - an assessment of the woman's personal medical history to determine if there are any of the following:
- medical conditions that may require special care during pregnancy - such as epilepsy, diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, and/or allergies
- previous surgeries
- past pregnancies
- vaccination status - an assessment of current vaccinations/inoculations to assess a woman's immunity to rubella (German measles), in particular, since contracting this disease during pregnancy can cause miscarriage or birth defects. If a woman is not immune, a vaccine may be given at least three months before conception to provide immunity.
- infection screening - to determine if a woman has a sexually transmitted infection or urinary tract infection (or other infection) that could be harmful to the fetus and to the mother.
Other steps that can help reduce the risk of complications and help prepare for a healthy pregnancy and delivery include the following: