If you are planning to become pregnant in the next year or so, pre-pregnancy counseling is a way to positively impact the health of your baby. With pre-pregnancy counseling you can identify and correct potential problems or health risks when it's easiest to make those adjustments - before you get pregnant.
Pre-pregnancy counseling ensures that you are in optimal condition to have a successful pregnancy. It can help prevent:
Low birth weight
Existing maternal illnesses from getting worse due to pregnancy.
Considering that half of all pregnancies are unplanned, taking steps to eliminate risks is a good precaution for all women of childbearing age.
Out of the nearly 62 million women in the U.S. who could become pregnant, many have conditions or habits that could put them or their babies at risk. Nearly 50 percent are overweight or obese, 55 percent drink alcohol, 11 percent smoke, 10 percent have diabetes, 3 percent each have high blood pressure or heart disease and 1 percent have thyroid dysfunction.
Through pre-pregnancy counseling, your healthcare provider helps you:
Manage diabetes with glucose control
Control high blood pressure with a medication that is safe for the baby
Treat and manage thyroid dysfunction which is pivotal for positive pregnancy outcomes
Practice a restricted diet for certain metabolic conditions
Manage infectious diseases
Lose weight to decrease risk for numerous adverse pregnancy outcomes due to obesity
Stop smoking and using alcohol to reduce health risks for you and your baby.
You should control and manage chronic health conditions all of the time, but especially during pregnancy. Consider that pre-pregnancy management of diabetes could prevent 113,000 birth defects and stillbirths per year in the United States.
How does pre-pregnancy counseling work?
Your health care provider interviews you and orders tests to identify biomedical, behavioral and social risks. He or she helps you modify or eliminate risks and adopt an attitude and behavior that will help you experience a positive pregnancy. During pre-pregnancy counseling, your health care provider may:
Screen for risk factors that indicate a need for disease/medical condition management
Order lab tests to confirm immunity against viral infections such as rubella, measles and mumps, which are risky during pregnancy
Review previous gynecologic and obstetric history, past medical, surgical and family histories
Review medications to determine potential risks and manage accordingly
Review environmental hazards or toxins related to your job or home which could have an impact on pregnancy outcomes
Recommend optimal nutrition, including taking Folic acid prior to attempting to become pregnant
Recommend weight reduction (if obese or overweight) and appropriate exercise programs
Recommend substance control/counseling for smoking, drinking or drugs
Provide information on handling pets to avoid serious infections
Provide information about support programs such as the WIC program or referrals to get help with health insurance such as medical assistance
Identify social or mental health hazards such as domestic violence and provide counseling as necessary.
These screenings and tests give your healthcare provider a complete picture of your current health so he or she may make recommendations to prepare you for a healthy pregnancy and an overall healthy lifestyle.
Salama is a board-certified OB/GYN and a fellow of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He practices at Susquehanna Health OB/GYN at Williamsport Regional Medical Center, which opens its new Birthplace Wednesday. To schedule pre-pregnancy counseling with Salama, call 321-3300.