Pre-pregnancy counselling is a counselling session conducted before you conceive, and is beneficial for the mother as well as the baby during the term of pregnancy. It helps in checking for possible risk factors during pregnancy and also gives a way to resolve any medical issues you may have before you become pregnant. Pre-pregnancy counselling and care will help you to become physically healthy and emotionally strong before you enter into the phase of pregnancy.
What happens during a pre-pregnancy counselling session?
You can discuss and clarify with me, all the things that concern you before you get pregnant, like starting prenatal vitamins, diet or any hereditary health issues. Many important points will be discussed during your pre-pregnancy counselling session. They include:
Reproductive history: I will discuss your menstrual history, use of contraceptives, any previous sexually transmitted diseases, vaginal infections and Pap test results.
Medical and surgical history: You should inform me about any past health problems so that it can be controlled while you plan your pregnancy. Any past surgeries or hospitalisations should also be brought to the his notice.
Current medications: any prescription, over-the-counter medications or herbal supplements that you may be currently taking. This can help me plan your medications so as to prevent any potential problems during your pregnancy.
Weight: It is always better to have an ideal weight before you conceive. Gaining weight if you are underweight will reduce the risk of having a low birth-weight baby, and reducing weight if you are overweight will prevent the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Workplace and home environment: I will discuss potential hazards to conception or maintaining a pregnancy, such as exposure to lead or certain toxic solvents, radiation and cat faeces.
Lifestyle: The effect of certain habits like alcohol consumption, smoking and use of recreational drugs on pregnancy will be discussed. You and/or your partner may be advised to stop these habits for a healthy pregnancy.
Exercise: Please tell me about the type of exercises you perform or if you don’t exercise. Based on this, you may be advised to continue normal exercises during pregnancy.
Diet: Having good dietary habits is beneficial during pregnancy. You will be advised to consume food rich in folic acid, calcium, fibre and other nutrients, and reduce the intake of caffeine, which is present in coffee, chocolates, soft drinks and medications, before getting pregnant.
Family health history: the presence of hereditary medical conditions and multiple births in the family.
Prenatal vitamins: You should start taking folic acid supplements before you conceive, as folic acid reduces the chances of neural tube defects in your baby.
Advice for older women: Women older than 35 years of age will be advised on the risks of infertility, abnormalities in the child and pregnancy complications, such as miscarriage and birth problems.
I will also:
- Perform a physical exam of your abdomen, heart, breasts, thyroid and lungs. If you have not had a recent papsmear this can be done at the same time.
- Arrange blood tests to screen for hepatitis, HIV, rubella, syphilis and other conditions
- Chart your menstrual cycles to monitor ovulation and determine the most favourable time to get pregnant
- Advise appropriate vaccinations against rubella or chickenpox, and recommend delay in conception for a month
- Conduct genetic counselling for older mothers or those with a risk of hereditary diseases to help you understand the chances of birth defects