Preconception counseling can help identify possible factors that may complicate conception, gestation, delivery, and even the time period after birth.
Our expert staff at Cherokee Women’s Health Specialists, with our decades of combined knowledge and experience, are always prepared to help you, guide you, and answer any concerns or questions you may have during this event in your life. Your honest, detailed history will enable us to foresee and address any potential risks to you or your baby, while we will always maintain confidentiality.
I’m Perfectly Healthy, and the Women in My Family Have Never Had Trouble Conceiving. Why Would I Need Preconception Counseling?
Although family history plays an important part in a woman’s ability to conceive and have a healthy baby, every female is different and unique. The food you eat, the medication you take, and the lifestyle you live are a few of the things that can play a positive or negative role regarding your plans to have a baby.
When Should I Schedule a Preconception Counseling Session?
Ideally, if you are healthy, fit, have a regular menstrual cycle, and have already given birth successfully, we recommend you schedule an appointment three months before you plan to conceive. However, if you are on a long term birth control regimen, or suspect you may have trouble becoming pregnant for any reason, it’s always best to call us and state your concerns. We will advise you accordingly based on your individual case.
Dr. Crigler discusses preconception counseling
What Information Do You Need? Is There Anything I Can Do or Bring to My Appointment?
You will, of course, be advised what to do when you call us, but organizing the following information with as many dates as possible would greatly help us study your case with much more detail:
• Family history: Mention if any of your siblings, parents, grandparents, or other relatives have had any medical conditions such as diabetes, seizures, blood clotting disorders, high blood pressure, etc.
• Medication history: Recreational, prescribed, and over the counter, including vitamins and supplements: If any of these are harmful to a fetus, you may need to be weaned off them, change prescriptions or modify dosages, if at all possible, before your anticipated pregnancy. It is also important to disclose if you smoke or drink alcoholic beverages regularly or consume excessive amounts of caffeine.
• Health history: List any medical conditions, chronic or not, which you may be suffering from presently or may have suffered in the past. What may seem trivial to you could be important and enables us to judge whether these can affect your pregnancy or ability to conceive. Even childhood illnesses you’ve long since recovered from, such as asthma, mild heart murmurs, or measles should be documented.
• Surgical history: Any and all surgeries, past or pending, should be brought to our attention no matter how many years ago they took place, especially any gynecological procedures such as fibroid removal, biopsies, etc. Mention any abnormal Pap smears or other findings previously diagnosed. You should also disclose if you have ever had any blood transfusions.
• Pregnancy history: List caesarean and/or miscarriages: Whether you delivered a full term healthy baby or had complications, you should inform us so that we can do everything within the scope of our expertise to avoid repeating the latter scenario.
• Gynecological history: Include current and prior birth control and menstrual cycle patterns to better pinpoint ovulation times and facilitate subsequent conception. We also need to know how long and the regularity of your period. We can also recommend how long you need to stop using your birth control before you try to become pregnant, as this varies by method of birth control.
• Environmental history: Where you live and work, along with your social and familial network may factor into successful conception. Certain elements in your environment, or that of people you associate with can prove to be dangerous and heighten risks. For instance, exposure to some metals may cause birth defects. Second-hand smoke may compromise both your lungs and the baby’s. Recent illnesses of those around you may prompt us to advise you to you wait awhile before beginning or adding to your family. It is always wise to let us know if you’ve encountered any such hazards.
• Sexually transmitted diseases: We are not here to judge, only to help. Genital herpes, hepatitis, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, and other such diseases can drastically hurt you and your baby, and may even jeopardize your capability to reproduce. Complete honesty on your part can improve pregnancy outcomes. Your secrets are safe with us.
• Vaccination history: Bring a list of all vaccinations. Many vaccines cannot be given during pregnancy so preparing early can ensure that all vaccines are current. For example, MMR, varicella, and hepatitis vaccines must be given outside of pregnancy.
What Can I Expect at a Preconception Counseling Session?
The information you provide will help us create an effective plan to maximize health and minimize risk during your pregnancy.
Beyond your history, we will also address the following:
• Age: Your age and your partner’s may be important factors in determining if you need to be monitored more carefully for such conditions as Down syndrome, gestational diabetes, etc.
• Weight, diet, and exercise: If you are overweight or underweight, we may discuss your diet and activity level. We may recommend testing if we suspect the problem may involve your metabolism. Based on our findings, we can offer any necessary counsel. Our nutritionists and physical therapists are available to help you achieve a healthy weight prior to conception. If you are extremely active, moderately active or very inactive, suggestions to modify any of these levels by decreasing or increasing them may also be covered in your session.
• Vitamins: We may recommend vitamins and supplements that your body may be lacking. Folic acid is often prescribed prior to pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects. If you have MTHFR gene mutation, you will require a special type of folic acid.
• Genetic counseling: A study of the family history you furnish may trigger us to order certain tests on your behalf in order to check for the possibility of any hereditary or genetic complications, defects, or developmental and intellectual challenges that may affect your baby.
A complete physical examination, including a pelvic exam and Pap smear, is also usually administered to detect any physical abnormalities. Appropriate screening, cultures, and blood tests based on your findings will be ordered.
Preconception counseling ensures that every possible precaution is taken to prevent future problems throughout gestation, labor, delivery and even in the postpartum period. Our ultimate goal is to help your body and mind create the best environment for your pregnancy.
To book a preconception counseling appointment, visit our clinic or call us at 770.720.7733.