If you are a woman of reproductive age and considering becoming pregnant, there are probably many questions running through your head. Pregnancy is an emotional time for a woman as well as a physically demanding one. It is best, therefore, to approach pregnancy as you would other important steps in your life.
Would you run a marathon without training or write an exam paper without learning anything about the subject? As with all major challenges, preparation is key. Before you run 26.2 miles, you’ll probably find out how fit you are and train to improve. For an exam, it’s preferable to find out as much information on the subject as you can. Planning a pregnancy is a challenge, and should be taken very seriously, along with the assistance of your women’s specialist.
One of the earliest steps should be trying to find one of the best obstetricians in your area so that you can receive some of the best prenatal support. Doctors at a women’s medical clinic are also specialists in a variety of disciplines and can meet any of your OBGYN needs, and provide you with useful resources and support.
Being prepared is key to a successful pregnancy and outcome. North Valley Women’s Care is an all-female, dedicated group of obstetrics and gynecology specialists. They feel it is important for women to think about their pregnancy before they try to get pregnant.
OBGYN women’s clinics offer pre-pregnancy counseling to women on a wide range of topics. This is an important step towards a healthy, successful pregnancy.
What is Pre-pregnancy Counseling
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The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) considers pre-pregnancy counseling as a major part of women’s medical care. You don’t have to be actively trying to become pregnant to think about pre-pregnancy counseling.
Pre-pregnancy counseling is when you meet with a healthcare professional, like an obstetrician or another physician, to discuss your options and any risk factors to your pregnancy.
This also provides women with an opportunity to talk about healthy habits and general wellness. Pre-pregnancy counseling could improve the chances of conception and pregnancy in the future. You will also be able to receive a women’s health check that will go into greater detail about any complications that may arise during your pregnancy, and measures you can take to minimize them.
The aim of the counseling is to address potential issues and minimize any future risks. Seeking advice from your health care provider is even more appropriate if you know you have any existing medical conditions which may be an issue in a planned pregnancy.
Pre-pregnancy counseling can be a part of your general wellness health care, If you are having difficulty conceiving, you can talk to your physician about this at your check-up. Your health care provider will play a critical role in helping you look at your situation.
They can suggest ways to improve your chances of becoming pregnant. He or she may also suggest appropriate tests to find out if there is a medical reason behind the difficulty in conception.
Pre-pregnancy counseling is recommended for everyone who intends to initiate a pregnancy. It should not be thought of as being limited to heterosexual couples. At the Glendale OBGYN office, North Valley Women’s Care provides counseling to anyone who is a part of the LGBT community.
Having a Healthy Pregnancy – Recommendations for Women
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There are some steps you can take to make sure you have the healthiest pregnancy possible. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the American College of Obstetricians make several recommendations for women wishing to become pregnant. These include:
- General health screening
- Medical testing
- Have an up to date immunization record
- Make healthier dietary and lifestyle choices
- Reviewing personal safety concerns
You can discuss these matters with a physician at a medical center for women’s health. You can also attend a center for women’s health or well-woman health clinic where you will find information and assistance.
Health Screenings, Medical Testing, Immunizations and Other Services Provided by Women’s Medical Clinic
Before becoming pregnant you should consider if you have any chronic medical conditions. Certain conditions can be made worse during pregnancy. Others may impact the pregnancy itself. Such conditions can include diabetes, thyroid disease, hypertension or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
Identify and discuss any worries through a health screening with your women’s medical care provider. They can put in place a proper plan to manage and treat your condition throughout your pregnancy. Similarly, if you are taking any long-term medication, they can help you plan to manage your symptoms during pregnancy.
As part of your pre-pregnancy planning and counseling, you should be offered the opportunity to screen for genetic conditions. These can include cystic fibrosis and spinal muscular atrophy. You can also discuss if you need to be screened for sexually transmitted infections.
Your specialist will also discuss if you are likely to have come into contact with other infectious diseases, like Zika. If you have traveled to an area considered at risk of such a disease your physician may advise a waiting time before attempting to become pregnant.
Contracting some diseases during pregnancy can have a detrimental effect on the health of both the mother and the growing baby. It is recommended, therefore, that women of reproductive age check their immunization status each year.
Your physician will advise you to remain up to date with your vaccinations against tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and varicella (chickenpox).
It is also recommended that women planning a pregnancy should receive an annual flu shot. Your local women’s medical clinic can carry out pre-pregnancy screening for immunization levels. If necessary, discuss vaccination planning with your physician.
To ensure your healthiest possible pregnancy, your OBGYN will wish to be informed about any medical conditions prior to your pregnancy. If you think you are pregnant, you should contact your physician as early as possible.
This will help to accurately date your pregnancy and due date. It will also ensure the correct medical plan is put into place quickly. This will optimize the health and safety of you and your baby throughout the pregnancy.
Review Nutritional and Lifestyle Choices with your Women’s Doctor
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A healthy lifestyle isn’t just for expecting mothers; everyone should adopt a balanced diet and exercise. This is even more important during pregnancy. For the best outcome, you should eat sensibly and maintain a healthy body weight. If required, you should also take the correct supplements your body needs.
Your physician will assess your BMI and discuss with you how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. This can help with conception. Gaining or losing too much or too little weight during pregnancy can lead to complications. Eating well can help avoid those situations.
As well as eating healthily, many people take nutritional supplements. You should discuss your diet and any vitamin supplements you are taking with your physician. Your doctor can screen you to ensure you are meeting the recommended daily allowances for iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin B12, and vitamin D as well as other essential nutrients.
Pre-pregnancy folic acid supplements are encouraged as they reduce the risk of neural tube defects in the fetus. If you are already pregnant, you should visit a well-women’s health clinic to talk about your options when it comes to which vitamins you need more of while pregnant. Besides supplements, also inform your physician about any medications you’re currently taking.
Alcohol or other substance abuse can have an adverse effect on fertility. They can also harm the health of the mother and fetus. An assessment of the use of alcohol and other substances should form part of your pre-pregnancy counseling. You and your specialist can agree on a corrective behavior plan if it is required.
Discuss Any Safety Concerns that May be Present
Pregnancy and birth can be an emotional rollercoaster for many women. Having a safe environment at this time can be an invaluable aid. Intimate partner violence can have a detrimental effect on both mother and baby.
Your women’s physician should discuss this issue with you during your pre-pregnancy counseling. It can sometimes be difficult to discuss these matters. Building a strong and trusting relationship with your women’s specialist will benefit you during your pregnancy.
Your women’s physician is there to help and support you. Being honest about this issue can help you. Your physician can work with you to manage your physical and mental wellbeing during your pregnancy.
Recommended Screening Tests at Your Next Women’s Health Check
No matter how far in the future you are planning on becoming pregnant, you can start to prepare now. Screening for certain diseases and genetic conditions at an OBGYN women’s clinic can also have a positive effect on your current lifestyle and general wellness. You may wish to screen for STIs, including HIV.
You can also screen for genetic conditions that may play an important part in your decision to become pregnant in the future. Tests that you could consider screening for include Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, HIV, Cystic Fibrosis, SMA, and Fragile X.
Following the screening, your physician will discuss the results with you. You can agree on any treatment or lifestyle changes that might be necessary. You can also talk to your physician about the possible side effects of your pregnancy, and what is a healthy body weight for a pregnant woman.
Your Women’s Specialist May Recommend an Infertility Evaluation
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When you decide you want to become pregnant, it can be upsetting to find that it may not be that easy. A woman experiencing a hard time getting pregnant can often feel responsible for not becoming pregnant quickly, but in between 40% and 50% of cases, the issue can be attributed to the male partner.
If your specialist recommends an infertility evaluation, be sure that it also includes the male partner.
Your women’s specialist may recommend an evaluation of fertility in women who fall into one of these three categories:
- The female is younger than 35 and has been trying to conceive for 12 months or more
- The female is older than 35 and has been unsuccessful in conceiving for 6 or more months
- The female is known to have a condition that may cause infertility
If your specialist recommends an evaluation it does not automatically mean that either partner has a fertility problem. An evaluation may identify an issue with infertility in either partner. It can also show that neither partner has a particular fertility problem.
What is Infertility?
According to the American Pregnancy Association, infertility is defined as a condition of the reproductive system that prevents the conception of children. This doesn’t mean that you are infertile if you have been trying to conceive for two months without success. The number of steps nature needs to fall into place cannot always be managed perfectly. You should discuss any concerns about infertility with your women’s specialist during pre-pregnancy counseling.
Infertility does, however, affect an estimated 15% of couples trying to become pregnant. As discussed above, your specialist may recommend an infertility evaluation based on your age, the length of time since beginning to try to conceive and your medical history. It is important to include the male partner’s medical history in this decision also.
Some conditions that you may already identify as a potential problem and talk to your specialist about include:
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Absence of menstrual cycle
- A too-long menstrual cycle (above 35 days) or too-short cycle (below 21 days)
- Recent excessive weight gain or weight loss
Your specialist may also perform a targeted physical examination. This will focus on vital signs, including examination of the thyroid, breasts and pelvic area. Tests will look at your ovarian reserve, correct functioning of your ovulatory cycle and identify any possible physical problems. Your specialist can often use imaging technology to look at the reproductive organs.
Have your Male Counterpart Also Evaluated for Infertility
In 40% – 50% of cases of infertility, it is the male partner that can have a fertility problem. Given this high number, it is a good idea that male fertility tests are carried out at the same time as the female.
This can be carried out by the women’s specialist, or he may be referred to a health care specialist with expertise in male reproductive health. At a minimum, your women’s specialist may order semen analysis from your male partner.
If your male partner has any worries about infertility, this can be raised at your pre-pregnancy counseling. Signs and symptoms of male infertility can include the following:
- Low sperm production
- Abnormal sperm function
- Blockages preventing the delivery of sperm
- Chronic health problems
- Lifestyle choices
It should be noted, however, that unexplained infertility occurs in up to 30% of infertile couples. Your physician will be happy to discuss this with you during pre-pregnancy counseling if it is is a concern to you.
Proprietary Fertility Testing for Men and Women
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If your specialist thinks that you should have an infertility evaluation, the first step is often to assess the female’s egg supply. This is a specialized service that cannot usually be carried out in-house.
Your physician will use a fertility laboratory such as ReproSource®. From a simple blood sample, this laboratory can provide an Ovarian Assessment Report (OAR). The blood sample is tested for hormones associated with ovulation such as FSH and AMH.
This is then combined with other diagnostics, along with your age. The result of this gives your Egg Retrieval Score. Your women’s specialist can use this information to discuss with you the best way to proceed.
ReproSource® is also able to carry out male fertility testing. They can provide a doctor who is a women’s specialist with details of semen volume, sperm concentration, shape, size, and mobility. If any of these results are low, further blood analysis can take place and hormone treatments given in some cases.
If your male partner is interested in checking his sperm on a more regular basis, he can use an at-home test. Trak® provides a test system, connected to a phone app that can be used at home. This test claims to give results that are as accurate as a laboratory. The equipment measures the volume of semen and counts the sperm concentration in millions per milliliter.
This number is categorized as Optimal, Moderate or Low. By connecting this information to the phone app, your male partner can track his sperm count over a period of time. By doing this, he can review if lifestyle factors might affect his sperm. These results can be discussed with your health specialist.
Arizona Women’s Specialists are Here to Help with your Pre-pregnancy Journey
Making the decision to become pregnant can be a daunting process. Friends, family and loved ones will all have an opinion and can be turned to for advice and support. It is important, however, to have honest, trustworthy and supportive medical advice to ensure you progress on this journey with as little stress and difficulty as possible.
North Valley Women’s Care is a center specializing in women’s medical care. Their team of the best gynecology specialists and obstetricians offers pre-pregnancy counseling. The center provides a dedicated Women to Women OBGYN practice in a comfortable atmosphere.
At North Valley Women’s Care, they recognize that the relationship between a woman and her OBGYN specialist is important. This is a practice that is run for women by women. They have an intimate understanding of the need and care you require.
North Valley Women’s Care can also help co-manage fertility issues, high-risk pregnancies, and perinatal requirements. The center works with top fertility specialists. Working together these specialists aim to give you the best chance of achieving a successful pregnancy.
Some women may benefit from a perinatal specialist. Your women’s health specialist may recommend one if you fall into a higher risk category. These include:
- Being aged over 35
- Expecting twins
- Have a pre-existing medical condition
- Have experienced difficult pregnancies in the past
In these cases, North Valley Women’s Care can refer their patients to a local perinatology group. These specialists will work together to co-manage the pregnancy. This ensures the absolute best care for both mother and baby.
Pre-Pregnancy Counseling Offers Support, Knowledge, and the Best Plan for You
Most people believe that becoming pregnant is easy. We should have more sex and perhaps keeping track of your cycle via an ovulation calendar, but for many couples, it doesn’t occur easily or quickly. Before choosing to become parents, you should consider your health and medical history as well as your current lifestyle.
These factors can all have a bearing on successful conception as well as a successful pregnancy outcome. Becoming pregnant can be a life-changing decision. Ensuring the physical and mental well-being of the mother-to-be is important. Ideally, this should start before conception.
Pre-pregnancy counseling can help you as potential parents review your medical background. Your specialist can help you with lifestyle choices and conduct tests to ensure your health prior to conception. Pre-pregnancy counseling paves the way for a strong relationship between you and your OBGYN right from the outset. This partnership will work to track the mother’s health before and during pregnancy. Close co-operation will also address any risks if they appear. The aim of any pregnancy is a successful outcome. Give yourself the best chance and ask your women’s specialist about pre-pregnancy counseling.