Preconception

Ready to start a family? Scheduling a visit with your ob-gyn before you start trying to conceive is a must. It is one of the most significant things you can do for your future child. It's a time when patients can sit down with their practitioners to go over key issues to ensure a healthy start to a pregnancy.

Medical History

Your doctor will want to go over all aspects of your health history. To make the process easier, take a list that contains a thorough family history; you may need to call a few relatives to inquire about possible genetic issues or inherited diseases. You should also have a list of all the medications, herbs, and vitamins you're taking, plus any records you may have from previous physician visits, including a vaccination history and recent blood work. And don't forget to ask your partner about his family medical history.

Medical Record Analysis

Gynecological History 

In addition to your medical history, you should be prepared to answer questions about any previous high-risk pregnancies (preterm labor, preeclampsia, diabetes, etc.), miscarriages, abortions, and other gynecological issues, such as fibroids. Being honest and straightforward about your current and past health will ensure that your doctor can offer you the best advice and guidance.

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Physical and Gynecological Exams

Preconception visit doesn't typically include an exam. If you're up-to-date with your annual exam (recent Pap smear and breast exam) and you don't have any current or previous issues that would warrant an exam, such as a history of fibroids or endometriosis, you shouldn't need one. If you're due for your annual, though, you can plan for a full vaginal, pelvic and breast exam, as well as a Pap smear.

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Tests 

You'll also need urine and blood tests. The blood tests will check for varicella (chicken pox), rubella (we're often vaccinated against as children in the measles, mumps, and rubella [MMR] vaccine, but over time, our immunity can fade), blood type and Rh factor, and sometimes vitamin D and the thyroid hormones

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Planning 

You probably have a lot of questions about trying to conceive. Be sure to go to your visit with a list of questions you want to ask, no matter how intimate or silly you think they are -- your doctor has probably heard them all before. You may want to discuss how and when to stop birth control, when to start trying and when during your cycle you are most fertile. Your doctor will be able to offer you advice to help you.

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Prenatal Vitamins

Starting a prenatal vitamin prior to conceiving is a vital first step. Most women don't know they're pregnant until they're already four weeks along -- the time at which most over-the-counter urine pregnancy tests can detect pregnancy hormones. By that time, the baby's spine and skull have already closed, and not having enough folic acid in your diet can lead to defects in this process.

Image by Candace Mathers