What is preconceptual counseling?

Preconception counseling is care and teaching that a woman seeks before getting pregnant. The goal is to identify conditions and to provide treatment and information before conception to improve the woman’s health and to help reduce the risk to the future baby

For a woman with no known health problems the preconception visit is scheduled for 3-6 months before the couple plans to conceive. During the preconception visit the health care provider will assess the woman looking for conditions such as anemia, diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, infections, family history of genetic disorders and immunity to rubella. In addition the woman’s idea weight will be determined: being underweight may result in problems conceiving while being over-weight is associated with a variety of pregnancy and birth-related complications. 

Preparing for a healthy baby may involve some life-style changes before the pregnancy is conceived. The health care provider may make recommendations about: improving diet and nutrition taking Folic acid (a B-vitamin), updating immunizations, exercising to keep you fit and healthy, stopping use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs and considering the effect of any prescription or regularly used over-the counter drugs on a pregnancy.

The information and recommendation from the preconception visit are important for enhancing the woman’s chance of conceiving a pregnancy and of decreasing the risks to the developing fetus. Taking care of a baby really does begin before conception.

Benjamin Sandler, MD
Reproductive Endocrinology

It is important to think about preventing pregnancy complications before you even try to get pregnant. The first "preconceptual counseling" appointment should be scheduled for four months or so before you plan to begin to try to conceive. Patients considering pregnancy should be on a vitamin with 0.8 mg of folic acid about three months before pregnancy. (The spinal cord is developed by one month after conception, so by the time a lot of women realize they are pregnant it is perhaps too late to prevent spina bifida and anencephaly). This consultation is a chance to discuss problems with previous pregnancies, social issues, environmental exposures, and general health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.