Why Preconception Care Is Important

For All Women

In recent years the idea of medical care before conception has become a source of improving the health women of reproductive age. It is a very important part of the overall health care program for women with a view toward screening and reducing health risk factors that may affect future pregnancies. Preconception care is about taking care of a woman's health before she conceives in an effort to ensure both she and her baby will have the best chance for health and well being.

Most Women Wait

Most women do not see a medical professional about pregnancy until they are already pregnant, unless they are having problems with conception. By then it can be too late to begin taking a helpful supplement, for instance folic acid, which prevents neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Many women do not plan to become pregnant, and then once they are, it can be a challenge to make changes that may be necessary to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery of a healthy baby.

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors which, if present before conception can and often lead to complications during pregnancy and birth and can lead to serious birth defects in the baby. It is common knowledge that smoking and alcohol are dangerous and harm can be done to the baby before the mother even knows she's pregnant. If a woman is on specific drugs for a chronic illness, such as anti-epileptic drugs, the dosage should be lowered before she becomes pregnant. Such drugs are known to cause malformations in the baby.

Intervention Before Conception Changes Things

Diabetes can present some serious challenges for pregnancy. If managed properly before pregnancy, the risk of birth defects is greatly lowered; if not, the risk is very high. Obesity can lead to gestational diabetes and birth defects. Pregnancy is not the time to lose weight. It's better to have weight under control before becoming pregnant.

If a woman is taking oral anticoagulants, or blood thinners, users of warfarin should be switched to another, safer anticoagulant since this product has been shown to cause birth defects. Smoking affects the size of babies, who are often born too early or underweight. Only a small number of smokers are able to quit smoking after they become pregnant - another case for quitting before conception.

Of course, sexually transmitted diseases are problematic at any time. Untreated Chlamydia and gonorrhea have been shown to be strongly tied to ectopic pregnancy and infertility. If present in a pregnancy, there is a risk of fetal death or severe disability in the baby.

A Nation Can Be Changed

Preconception care has a widespread outcome - by making sure mothers are healthy before they get pregnant, the rates of complications, infant mortality, and birth defects are lowered and an entire nation can be positively affected.

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