Most women realize the importance of care during pregnancy, but might overlook the need for professional help prior to conception.
Scott & White’s Dr. Belinda Kohl-Thomas is an obstetrician/gynecologist (Ob/Gyn) and specializes in care for women.
She explains three reasons why it’s important to make a preconception appointment:
- To optimize your health in order to increase the likelihood that you will have a healthy baby.
- For continuity of care. You can meet a doctor and decide whether or not you want him or her to care for you during your pregnancy.
- To identify any potential problems that need to be addressed prior to pregnancy.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons.
For Your Health and Baby’s Health
Before you become pregnant, it is beneficial to be in good health. An Ob/Gyn can discuss your health history with you, and help you feel confident about having a baby.
Dr. Kohl-Thomas says she discusses habits with patients such as eating, exercise, work and hobbies. She points out that some activities or substances you are exposed to may be potentially harmful.
When meeting with an Ob/Gyn, you can discuss your daily routines and find out if any supplements you’re taking will need to be monitored. A doctor can also help get your immunization history updated and chat about your overall wellness.
“Some immunizations cannot be given during pregnancy and ideally, we would need to give them prior to pregnancy rather than after,” says Dr. Kohl-Thomas.
For the baby, Dr. Kohl-Thomas recommends taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid three months before pregnancy to decrease certain spinal birth defects. The 0.4 mg of folic acid per day can also keep your blood healthy according to womanshealth.gov. It’s also vital for the health of the baby to explain any substances you may be using as well as any potential harm to you including domestic violence.
Continuity of Care
If you’re a young woman who is sexually active, you might be hesitant to make an appointment prior to pregnancy. The reality is, most doctors take special consideration and will ease your fears and answer your questions.
“Young women are a very special population,” says Dr. Kohl-Thomas. “It is our job as Ob/Gyns to make their first experience as comfortable as possible.”
This means as Ob/Gyns:
- We make sure that we are aware that this is a patient’s first exam
- We are very careful and sensitive
- We only do what is necessary in an exam and explain each procedure as we go
- Sometimes we can just talk at the first appointment so patients can get to know us and let them return for an exam
- We remain professional and nonjudgmental at all times
- We can also assure confidentiality as long as patients are not at risk for being harmed or harming others or themselves
By establishing a relationship with your Ob/Gyn early on, you will be more educated if or when you choose to become pregnant.
Identify Potential Problems
“We provide and highly recommend pre-conceptual counseling,” says Dr. Kohl-Thomas. “This allows us to do a complete history and physical and look for any potential problems that need to be addressed prior to pregnancy to optimize health.”
There are possible inherited disorders that you could be screened for, or you may have difficulty conceiving. After an exam or review of your family history, your Ob/Gyn will have a complete picture to discuss with you.
Dr. Kohl-Thomas recommends professional help with conception if:
- You are not having regular periods
- If you have not conceived after actively trying for one year, having unprotected intercourse at the appropriate time during your menstrual cycle, and without a known cause (i.e. irregular cycles, low sperm count)
- If you are near 35 years of age and have not conceived after actively trying to get pregnant for 6 months
“In any appointment, we will answer questions, address concerns and try to optimize your health,” she says.
In summary, the more educated you are regarding these topics, the better your chances of having a healthy pregnancy. Our Ob/Gyns are here for you.
If you’re interested in a preconception appointment or more information visit http://www.sw.org/women-health/childbirth. We look forward to assisting you in your new venture.