Couples these days are opting to meet a doctor before planning a pregnancy to make sure everything is alright with them. Pre-pregnancy tests or preconception care is now becoming a common practice offered by obstetricians & gynecologists.
While this may not always be necessary, but to make sure that you and your partner don’t have any conditions or illnesses that could affect pregnancy or chances of becoming pregnant can make a difference. Getting the right advice about exercise, eating, lifestyle and folic acid supplement can increase chances of conception and reduce the risks of miscarriage or birth defects.
Why is consulting the obstetrician important prior to conception?
Preconception counseling or preparing for pregnancy is mandatory for the benefit of the mother and the baby. A woman’s health prior to conception and during pregnancy is critical to the outcome of the pregnancy and may have a lifelong impact on her baby’s health for two main reasons:
1. To detect and assess any specific health problem in the woman or the partner so that they can be managed appropriately prior to pregnancy.
2. To obtain general advice about optimizing health care and lifestyle with pregnancy in mind. A woman should undergo a detailed medical examination including breast examination and Pap smear.
What are Pre-pregnancy Tests
Dr. Akhila Sangeetha Bhat, a gynecologist from Chennai, does pre-pregnancy work-up or preconception care for aspiring parents. “There are many married couples who are coming forward now to opt for an assessment of their bodies keeping family planning in mind. These are mostly women with hormonal imbalance, obesity, irregular periods who have been trying for conception. So basically they want to know if they are fine and can go ahead with planning for the child.”
What comprises this pre-pregnancy tests or preconception care?
“This is a basic health check-up which consists of complete blood work, hemoglobin profile and hormonal work, along with a basic scan and hormone investigations. This mostly clears the air of any abnormalities that they may need to worry about like low hemoglobin, hormonal imbalance, polycystic ovaries, etc and we know specifically what needs to be sorted beforehand”, says Dr. Bhat.
Blood tests and a pap smear may be done to rule out any medical conditions that could affect pregnancy or chances of conceiving. For men, a semen analysis can help in determining sperm motility. Illnesses such as Rubella, or German measles immunity, Chickenpox immunity, HIV, Hepatitis B immunity, Herpes, other STDs (such as chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea), thyroid problems (with a TSH test), and other conditions may be tested for.
A genetic profile is not generally required until and unless the family of the couples has a history of genetic abnormalities. An incidence of male infertility, female infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, history of autism, ADHD, down’s syndrome, vitiligo, albinism, glycogen storage disorder, are a few things that need to be watched out for in the family and brought to the attention of the doctors so that necessary genetic profiling can be done to identify or rule out any such abnormalities.
Sickle cell anemia, Thalassemia (an inherited form of anemia), and genetic diseases common in the population are done depending on the ethnicity of the patient.
While some may think that this is unnecessary and not required, a little prep and precautions before starting a family can make a difference in many cases especially with the many lifestyle diseases that are popping up nowadays even among the young.