Many times, I take time to speak to my patients when they attend reproductive child health clinics; on the importance of partners discussing together about some of the major crucial parenting issues like how to share childcare, working vs staying home, as well as religious traditions; before trying to conceive. The important thing is for couples to start talking about their priorities, expectations, and fears throughout the entire process, especially before pregnancy.
First of all, let me put this clear, when most people in our societies hear the term pre-conception health, they think about women. However, pre-conception health is important for men, too. There are things men can do for their own health, as well as for the women and children in their lives.
Well, if the couple is trying to have a baby or is just thinking about it, it is not too early to start getting ready for pregnancy. Pre-conception health and healthcare focus on things couples can do before and between pregnancies to increase the chances of having a healthy baby. For some women for instance, getting their body ready for pregnancy takes a few months. For other women, it might take longer. Whether this is your first, second, or sixth baby, the following are important things consider to help you get ready for the healthiest pregnancy possible.
The first step you will need to take is to stop any form of contraception. I am sure everyone is aware of this. If you want to conceive, you’ll obviously need to discontinue any form(s) of birth control you’re using. You can get pregnant right away after stopping some types of contraception like birth control pills. In fact, many women get their first period within two weeks of quitting the pill. When you period starts, so does your first cycle of trying to conceive. Some women get pregnant right away, but for others, it takes a few months
Start popping those vitamin supplements that your healthcare providers recommend for you. The most obvious one is folic acid. You should start taking this one month before conception and continue taking it for the first three months of pregnancy. When taken correctly, folic acid may help reduce the risk of spina bifida in unborn babies. In addition, folic acid needs to build up in your body to provide maximum protection for your baby against neural tube defects too. Many women conceive within one month of trying so like I said, it is ideal to start taking folic acid three months before you stop contraception. If you have already stopped contraception, start taking a 400mcg folic acid supplement daily until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
Keep your dental health on track! This is often overlooked by almost all expectant mothers, but take this today, having dental check up is one of the important things to consider before conceiving. Seriously, just go now and get it over with. You won’t have time once the baby comes. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can make you more susceptible to all sorts of dental nasties like gum disease. Changing hormone levels can also lead to more sensitive gums, bleeding, soreness and swelling when you floss or brush. When you see your dentist, tell him you’re planning to get pregnant. And when you visit your dentist during pregnancy, make sure he knows you’re pregnant.
So get to the dentist today and have a good clean up before your hormones start going haywire.
Another important but rather often forgotten factor, is gathering family histories of the both parents. Collecting your family’s health history can be important for your child’s health. You might not realize that your sister’s heart defect or your cousin’s sickle cell disease could affect your child, but sharing this family history information with your doctor can be important.
Other reasons people go for genetic counseling include having had several miscarriages, infant deaths, trouble getting pregnant (infertility), or a genetic condition or birth defect that occurred during a previous pregnancy.
The author is the medical doctor based in Dar es salaam firstname.lastname@example.org