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Preconception Care

What is preconception care?

Preconception care is the care a woman receives before she gets pregnant to help promote a healthy pregnancy.

Taking steps to make sure you are healthy and avoiding exposure to harmful behaviors and toxins before you conceive can decrease the chance of problems during pregnancy and improve the health of your child.

What is prenatal care?

Prenatal care is the care a woman gets during pregnancy. Prenatal care should begin as soon as a woman knows or suspects she is pregnant. Early and regular prenatal visits with a health care provider are important for the health of both the mother and the fetus.

Prenatal care is important to help promote a healthy pregnancy. Women who do not seek prenatal care are three times as likely to deliver a low birth weight infant. Lack of prenatal care can also increase the risk of infant death.

 How to Prepare for a Healthy Pregnancy

For women who are considering getting pregnant, following an OBGYN’s advice can reduce the risk of problems during pregnancy or after the child’s birth. How a woman treats her body before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on the child’s health and future.

Here are some common recommendations. Seek advice specific to your situation from your OBGYN.

Develop a plan for your reproductive life.

This plan includes your and your partner’s plans for the number and timing of pregnancies based on your values and life goals. Sharing your life plan with your health care provider can help address any potential problems before you conceive.

Increase your intake of folic acid.

Folic acid is a B vitamin (B9). It helps produce and maintain new cells. This is especially important during times when the cells are dividing and growing rapidly such as infancy and pregnancy. Although a related form (called folate) is present in orange juice and leafy, green vegetables (such as kale and spinach), folate is not absorbed as well as folic acid. Studies show that taking folic acid for 3 months before getting pregnant and 3 months after conceiving can reduce the risk of birth defects.

Get up to date on vaccines.

Ask your health care provider if you need a booster for any vaccines before you get pregnant. Some vaccines can be given during pregnancy, but the rubella (German measles) and varicella (chicken pox) vaccines are recommended before you get pregnant.

Talk to your health care provider about your diabetes or other medical conditions.

Try to manage health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, seizure disorders, etc. before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or health problems for the baby.

Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs.

These substances can increase the risk for early birth, conditions in the baby and even death. If you are trying to quit smoking, drinking, or doing drugs and you need help, talk to your health care provider about support groups or about medications to help quit smoking.

Strive to reach a healthy weight.

Obesity may make it more difficult to become pregnant. Being overweight or obese also puts you at risk for complications during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and even stillbirth. NICHD researchers have found that obesity can increase your child’s risk of a problem with the heart that is present at birth by 15%. Talk to your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you and about a plan to help you achieve it.

Learn your family's health history.

Your health care provider will ask for information about your family’s genetic and health history. You may be referred for genetic counseling if certain conditions run in your family or if a family member was born with a physical abnormality.

Get mentally healthy.

Good mental health means you feel good about your life and value yourself. It’s natural to worry or feel sad, anxious, or stressed at times. However, if these feelings do not go away and they interfere with your daily life, it’s important to seek help before you get pregnant. The hormonal changes during pregnancy can contribute to depression. Women who are depressed may have trouble eating or sleeping or may turn to tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, all of which can harm the baby.

 

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