Preconception care can make a positive difference to your health and the health of your child. More and more evidence points to the fact that the way we were nourished and grew in our mother’s womb can have an important impact on your health as an adult. It is now popular to seek information and health care prior to trying to conceive a baby.
Preconception care can make a positive difference to your health and the health of your child. More and more evidence points to the fact that the way we were nourished and grew in our mother’s womb can have an important impact on your health as an adult. It is now popular to seek information and health care prior to trying to conceive a baby. This seeking of information can help prepare you physically and emotionally for pregnancy and parenthood. The information provided here is basic. There are a number of health care practitioners now providing preconception care. These practitioners included midwives, naturopaths and medical practitioners. You can visit one of these practitioners for in-depth information.
The aim of preconception care is to prepare your body for pregnancy, birth and beyond. This preparation ideally should occur for at least four months prior to trying to fall pregnant (Naish and Roberts, 1998). If this is not possible, try for at least one months preparation. Preconception care improves your chances of falling pregnant more easily, having a healthy pregnancy and health baby and aiding recovery after the birth. What steps can you take to improve your health and what things should you avoid? The following frequently asked questions will provide you with some guidelines.
The one universally recommended supplement is folic acid. Folic acid is a B group vitamin that is needed for the healthy growth and development of the baby in the first weeks of life. By taking a folic acid supplement, research has found that birth defects such as spina bifida are reduced. The recommendation is to take at least 500 micrograms of folic acid per day for at least one prior to pregnancy and for the first three months of pregnancy (Australia New Zealand Food Authority, 1998).
Other nutritional supplements may be of benefit. It is wise to consult a health care practitioner specialising in preconception care for advise. Supplements that may be recommended include a balanced multivitamin/mineral supplement, iron (if stores are low), zinc (if a deficiency exists) and calcium if your diet is lacking. Obviously eating a well balanced diet is ideal and drinking plenty of water (10 to 12 glasses per day) is ideal.
A good place to start is by visiting a health care practitioner specialising in preconception health care. They can take a detailed history, provide a physical check and offer advise where necessary. Blood tests may be recommended. The blood tests may include a full blood count and ferritin levels (women often have low iron stores prior to pregnancy) and a test to see whether you are immune to rubella. Further blood tests depend on need. A test to check urine for infection, protein and glucose may be advised. A PAP smear may be recommended if it is due. A blood pressure check is done to ensure that it is within the normal range. A dental check up is also a good idea.
Some simple steps you can undertake include:
Preconception care is just as important for men as for women. The contribute half the genetic material that makes up the baby. It takes sperm three months to develop so that they are able to fertilise an egg. So it makes sense to practice preconception care for men for at least three months prior to trying to conceive a baby. Guidelines for men are very similar to those provided for women. If men followed these it would go a long to improving the health of his sperm, the chances of a healthy conception and baby (Ogle, 1998).
28th July 2000