The primary objective of a pre-pregnancy checkup is to ensure that your body in all respects is ready to carry the pregnancy, either travelling or not.
Pregnant women who travel need to consider the risk of pregnancy complications, the increased risk of venous thromboembolism with prolonged immobility during the trip, the potential risk of exposure to infectious diseases like malaria, Zika virus and more, and the availability of medical resources and insurance coverage at your destination.
Some airlines allow flying up to 34 weeks of gestation, and a healthy baby’s heart rate normally not affected during flight. it is your responsibility maintain hydration and to reduce the risk of venous thrombosis, by using compression stockings.
Why is Pre-pregnancy check-up important anyway?
Ideally, you can choose a healthcare provider with whom you can work across your pregnancy and possibly even the birthing process. Such a check-up can be scheduled anytime before getting pregnant and up to 12 months before you plan to get pregnant.
Your fertility can be impacted by certain medical conditions like diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, obesity, weight gain or even low weight. Other factors that can have a bearing on your pregnancy itself or ability to conceive can include the use of street drugs, abuse of prescription drugs and smoking. A pre-pregnancy check-up will help in managing health conditions and bring about changes in lifestyle to ensure that your baby is born healthy.
It is desirable that you take a pre-pregnancy even when you have a baby already. This is because your health could have undergone changes since your last pregnancy. In instances where you have experienced problems with your earlier pregnancy, your healthcare provider can help you avoid similar problems in the next pregnancy. This can be particularly relevant if you had experienced one or more of the following problems during an earlier pregnancy:-
- A child born with birth defects – Birth defects represent health conditions present at the time of birth. This can impact the function and shape of one or several parts of the body. They can also lead to problems with the overall health and the way the body develops and works.
- Premature Birth – Birth happening before the 37th week of pregnancy is reckoned as premature birth
- Miscarriage – If the foetus dies before the 20th week of pregnancy, it represents miscarriage
- Stillbirth – Stillbirth means the baby dying in the womb itself prior to birth but after the 20th week of pregnancy.
Which type of healthcare provider should you see for a pre-pregnancy check-up?
You can choose a gynaecologist or an obstetrician or a prenatal care specialist or even a nurse specializing in prenatal care. All these professionals can take adequate care of your pregnancy and deliver your baby.
- An OB or obstetrician is a medical professional with training and education to care for pregnant women and also deliver babies. There are many ways to find a reliable OB closest to you either with the help of the internet or through your family physician.
- A family doctor is a medical professional who generally takes care of everyone in your family. The family physician can take care of you before, after or during the pregnancy.
- An MFM or maternal-foetal medicine specialist is a medical professional with specialised training and extensive education to the management of high-risk pregnancy.
- An FNP or Family Nurse Practitioner is a nurse with training and education to provide health care to all members of your family.
- A WHNP is a Women’s health nurse practitioner who has necessary training and education to provide care for women across ages including women who are pregnant.
- A midwife is also a healthcare provider with appropriate training and education to provide care for women across ages including women who are pregnant.
What should be expected during a pre-pregnancy check-up?
During a pre-pregnancy check-up, your healthcare provider will focus on checking your overall health to ensure that your body is ready in all respects for pregnancy. The following factors can be discussed during this process:-
This is a vitamin needed by every cell in the body for healthy growth as well as the development of the foetus. Taking folic acid before the start of pregnancy and during the early days of pregnancy can help protect the baby from potential birth defects of the spine and brain known as neural tube defect and palate and cleft lip which are birth defects related to the mouth.
Health conditions which could impact your pregnancy
Several health conditions can impact your pregnancy and these include issues like depression, diabetes, high BP, and unhealthy weight. Your healthcare provider will also check for infections like STD (sexually transmitted diseases and toxoplasmosis. He/she may also have questions about the health history of your family to understand if any of those conditions are chronic in your family or in the family of your partner and/or others in the two families have suffered. This will help the physician understand any potential pattern of health concerns in the family and recommend measures to alleviate concerns. A genetic counsellor may be referred to if an in-depth analysis of genes is considered essential to protect your pregnancy.
Prescription and OTC medicines that you take
Your healthcare provider would also want to ensure that all the medicines prescribed for you or the OTC drugs that you are used to are safe for you and your baby. Some medicines like those for diabetes, asthma, or depression may need to be continued throughout the pregnancy since stopping them may invite more problems. Your physician should be relied upon to guide you and his advice should be followed meticulously. Similarly, your physician should be fully aware of any OTC medicines or nutrition supplements that you take so that he/she can advise what works best for you.
Some vaccinations may be advised to prevent disease like rubella or chickenpox affecting you during your pregnancy. These diseases can potentially harm your baby and you during pregnancy. Getting these vaccinations at the pre-conception stage is considered ideal.
Smoking, consumption of alcohol and abuse of street/prescription drugs
You may need help if you are used to or addicted to any of these. Discuss thoroughly with your physician so that he can advise measures that can help you to quit these habits that could be harmful to your baby and your own health.
Impact of chemicals at home/work
Some chemicals like weed killers, paint, cleaning products etc can potentially be harmful during pregnancy. Speak to your physician about how you can protect your baby and yourself from these during the pregnancy.
Many women use several birth control measures to avoid getting pregnant. Your physician may advise you to stop these measures several months before you plan to become pregnant. This will help in having a few normal menstrual cycles and help the physician figure out a potential due date when you are pregnant.
Depending on your individual circumstances your physician may advise a series of other measures too, as part of the pre-pregnancy checkup so that you have a safe pregnancy leading up to a healthy baby.