Many experts advise that women looking to have a child consult with their GP before they become pregnant for something called pre-pregnancy or preconception care.
It might sound odd, or even counter-productive, to start worrying before you’ve even become pregnant, but a doctor can help, even at an early stage. Your GP may carry out tests to make sure that you and your partner don’t have any hidden illnesses that could affect your pregnancy or your chances of becoming pregnant.
Indeed, studies have shown that preconception care can increase your chances of becoming pregnant and reduce the risks of miscarriage or birth defects.
A quick visit to your GP can confirm if your immunisations are up-to-date. And this is significant as many preventable infections, such as chickenpox, hepatitis B and German measles, can cause miscarriage or birth defects, so make sure you have been vaccinated.
If you are concerned about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), these can also be discussed with your GP, who will be able to carry out a screening. Having treatments for STIs before you get pregnant can improve your chances of having a successful pregnancy.
Women who wish to stop taking contraception in order to boost their fertility will, obviously, need to discuss this with their GP. It may simply involve having a coil or hormone patch removed, but, depending on the method used, you may have to wait a few months for the hormones to leave your body.
If you have an existing medical condition, such as high blood pressure, asthma, epilepsy or diabetes, it’s especially important to seek out medical care before getting pregnant. Some common medications used to treat these conditions can have an adverse effect on your pregnancy. If this is true of a medication that you are taking, your doctor may be able to suggest a substitute. Prior to conception, you will need to advise your GP on all medications you are taking, including any over-the-counter medications.
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