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What is preconception health?
The formation of mature sperm takes about two months, while the maturation of eggs occurs at about one hundred days prior to ovulation. As you can see, your reproductive health at the time you start to attempt conception is actually largely dependent on your health, environment, diet and lifestyle a few months earlier. This makes preconception and the pre-pregnancy period vital in optimising the chances of successful conception.
What is a preconception check-up?
A preconception or pre-pregnancy check-up with your obstetrician or gynaecologist is advised for women attempting conception. At this appointment, your doctor may order blood tests to check vitamin and mineral levels or seroconversion levels against particular infections.
Some women may have conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy or reduced thyroid function or have a family history of neural tube defects that needs special monitoring, genetic screening or further investigation.
What is a healthy preconception lifestyle?
Nutrition is a significant part of optimal preconception health. A well balanced diet including fresh vegetables and plenty of fibre is key to maintaining pre-pregnancy wellbeing. It is important that women attempting conception are getting plenty of nutrients, including vitamins and some minerals, from their diet.
Regular non-contact exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle during the pre-pregnancy and pregnancy periods. Women that smoke, use illicit drugs or are heavy consumers of alcohol should also speak to their gynaecologist in order to reduce or abstain from consumption two to three months prior to conception.
Do I need supplements?
In some cases, it may be advisable to supplement certain elements during the preconception period. For example, it is recommended that women of child bearing age supplement folic acid. This is true of the pre-pregnancy period and during the pregnancy itself. Folic acid reduces the risk of some birth defects, so it is essential that folate levels are maintained at this time.
Do I need vaccinations?
Some women may not develop immunity to chicken pox or rubella despite being vaccinated; both of these can be harmful to a foetus during pregnancy, so further vaccination may be required at preconception.
Exposure to cats and cat litter can also put women at risk of toxoplasmosis, but immunity levels can be checked prior to conception. Like listeria, (a disease transmitted via contaminated food) the infection can cause foetal death in pregnant women.
Other infections are also potentially dangerous to pregnant women and their unborn babies, including syphilis, cytomegalovirus and HIV. There are tests to screen for these illnesses and methods of managing their effects, so women that are at risk should speak to their gynaecologist or obstetrician in a preconception appointment.
Screening may also include a blood type analysis to check for Rhesus factor, as Rhesus negative women will require medical attention.
RPAH Medical Centre
100 Carillon Avenue
Newtown, NSW 2042
Ph: (02) 9519-9707 Fax: (02) 8088-8005