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Get pre-Conception Care before you conceive

Dear doctor,
I have heard about pre-pregnancy care and am not sure why I need to be assessed before conceiving. Should I not just get pregnant and then start my antenatal care after the event?

The concept of pre-conception care has been around for some time, though not very well popularized in our part of the world. In basic terms, it’s a reproductive health assessment just prior to embarking on a planned pregnancy. Majority of couples miss out on this important assessment, partly because most pregnancies are unplanned.

The ultimate aim of pre-pregnancy care is to optimize outcomes, both for the parents and the unborn child. You see, there are many reproductive health matters that have the potential to affect pregnancy outcomes. It is also not unusual to harbor some health conditions that may not give any symptoms, but can have untoward effects on a pregnancy. And getting pregnant may not be a given for some, fertility related advise may be necessary to enhance conception in the first place.

You may be young and in good health, and you may not think much of a pre-pregnancy assessment. But you would be wrong. Pre-pregnancy care is for everyone, not just the sickly. It will be an opportunity to review your current health status, and make adjustments where necessary. If you are a smoker for example, stopping smoking will not only increase your chances of conceiving but will also reduce certain pregnancy complications. You will also get a chance to be screened for certain conditions, like infectious and sexual diseases. If already on certain medications, these may require substitutions with more pregnancy-friendly meds. You will also get a chance to discuss recommended supplements, individualized to your specific circumstances.

Your partner should come along for the pre-pregnancy assessment as well. After all, they are going to be intricately involved in your pregnancy. They may unknowingly harbor conditions that may delay with conception, or predispose to poor outcomes in the unborn baby. Shared pre-pregnancy advice, and consequent partner support during the pregnancy gets you onto the right footing from the outset. You will be as prepared as you can be, with all the relevant information you require as you embark on reproduction.

Once you get the all clear to conceive, go ahead and get pregnant. Do not ignore any of the advice given. Once pregnant, arrange to start your antenatal clinics in the first 11 to 13 weeks of the pregnancy. Initial scans and screening tests for the fetus are best done around this time. You should however get any unusual symptoms checked whenever they occur, regardless of the duration of the pregnancy. Your antenatal care will be individualized to suit your individual circumstances. Your initial preparedness, spanning from the pre-pregnancy period, will likely pay off with an uncomplicated pregnancy and childbirth.

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