Are you hoping to get pregnant soon? Planning for a baby is a special time!
A preconception checkup is a medical checkup you get before pregnancy. It helps make sure you’re healthy when you get pregnant. Getting a preconception checkup is one of the best things you can do to help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Why is a preconception checkup important?
A preconception checkup helps your health care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy. If you can, meet with the health care provider you want to take care of you when you do get pregnant. You can get a preconception checkup any time—even up to a year before you want to get pregnant.
Some medical conditions and lifestyle choices can affect pregnancy. They also can affect your chances of getting pregnant. Your provider can help you get these things under control to avoid health problems in you and your baby during pregnancy.
If you use birth control, you and your provider can talk about when to stop using it before trying to get pregnant. Your provider may suggest you stop using birth control a few months before you start trying to get pregnant. This lets your body go through a few normal menstrual cycles before you get pregnant. Having some normal cycles before pregnancy can help your provider figure out your due date when you do get pregnant.
What happens at a preconception checkup?
During a preconception checkup, your provider:
Your provider may:
Do you need a preconception checkup if you’ve already had a baby?
Yes. Your health may have changed since you were last pregnant. And if you had a problem in a past pregnancy, your provider may be able to help you avoid the same problem in your next pregnancy.
A preconception checkup is really important if you’ve had any of these problems in a past pregnancy:
How can your family health history affect pregnancy?
Family health history is a record of any health problems and treatments that you, your partner and everyone in both of your families has had.
Your family health history can help you and your provider look out for health problems that may run in your family. For example, if your family healthy history shows that you have a high risk of having a baby with a genetic disorder or birth defect, you may want to meet with a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor is a person who is trained to know about genetics, birth defects and other medical problems that run in families.
It’s a good idea to start putting your family history together before your preconception checkup so you can share it with your provider at your checkup. You and your partner can use a family health history form (.PDF, 424KB) to gather information.
Your family health history can help your provider:
Do you need a dental checkup before pregnancy?
It’s a great idea to keep up your regular dental checkups before and during pregnancy. Some studies show a link between gum disease and having a premature or low-birthweight baby. If you have gum disease, getting treatment before pregnancy may prevent health problems in you and your baby.
At your next regular dentist appointment, tell your dentist you’re planning to get pregnant
What are good questions to ask your provider about getting pregnant?
Your preconception checkup is a great time to ask your provider any questions you have about getting pregnant. You may want to know:
Last reviewed September 2012
Dad's exposure to harmful chemicals and substances before conception or during his partner's pregnancy can affect his children. Harmful exposures can include drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs), alcohol, cigarettes, cigarette smoke, chemotherapy and radiation. They also include exposure to lead, mercury and pesticides.
Unlike mom's exposures, dad's exposures do not appear to cause birth defects. They can, however, damage a man's sperm quality, causing fertility problems and miscarriage. Some exposures may cause genetic changes in sperm that may increase the risk of childhood cancer. Cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can seriously alter sperm, at least for a few months post treatment. Some men choose to bank their sperm to preserve its integrity before they receive treatment. If you have a question about a specific exposure, contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at www.mothertobaby.org/.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, hormones, heart, blood vessels, appearance (especially excessive hair growth) and the ability to have children. Although women do make small levels of androgens, also called male hormones, women with PCOS typically have high levels of androgens. This creates a hormonal disorder that affects ovulation and fertility. PCOS can cause many infertility cases. However, with the right treatment, many women have been able to get pregnant.
Women with PCOS often have trouble keeping a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight and increasing physical activity will help maintain ovulation and fertility. It'll also help prevent other complications like diabetes and heart disease. Your health care provider might consider the following treatments to help you get pregnant.
- Medications to help improve insulin resistance and ovulation
- Medication to induce ovulation
Every woman's menstrual cycle is different. Some women have their cycle like clockwork. Others have trouble knowing when it's going to happen. If you have only slight variations from month to month, but you have your menstrual period at least once every 25 to 35 days, this could be normal. However, if your cycle is absent for more than 2 months, you bleed too little or too much and you can't predict when it's going to happen, talk to your health provider. Having an irregular menstrual cycle may mean that ovulation isn't happening or it's happening only a few times a year. This will affect your ability to get pregnant. Your health provider will probably check your thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands. After a checkup your health provider will discuss your treatment options.