Advice on the benefits of visiting your GP for a pre conception health check with information on family planning, fertility and pregnancy.
If you are planning on starting to try for a family, it is a good idea to visit your GP for a pre conception check up. During the check up your GP is likely to discuss both your own and your partners lifestyle habits and general state of health as well as any potential 'risk' factors that may affect your chances of conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy.
Factors your GP may look at include;
- Contraception - If you are currently using a hormonal form of contraception such as the pill, your doctor will provide you with information about switching to a non-hormonal method until your natural menstrual cycle is re-established.
- Smoking - Smoking serious affects your chance of conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy to term. It also increases the likelihood of premature birth and low birth weight so it is important that you and your partner stop smoking before trying to conceive. Your doctor will be able to provide you with all of the advice and support you need to help you quit.
- Weight - If you or your partner are significantly under or over weight your chances of conceiving may be adversely affected and risk of pregnancy and birth complications increased. Your doctor will be able to recommend a healthy pre pregnancy weight and provide you with suitable diet information to help you achieve this.
- Diet -Your diet will have a big impact on your chances of conceiving a healthy pregnancy. Your doctor will provide you with information on the foods that you should be eating and the supplements you should take to encourage the healthy development of a fetus (i.e folic acid).
- Exercise - Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. While exercising to excess may reduce fertility, participating in moderate exercise is likely to boost your physical health, energy levels and chance of conceiving. Current NHS recommendations suggest that you should try to walk for at least 30 minutes 5 times a week and participate in aerobic exercise for at least 20 minutes 3 times a week. Brisk walking, swimming, jogging or yoga are good options and can be continued throughout pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to advise you on your current exercise habits and on starting and building an exercise regime.
- Alcohol - Whilst trying to conceive both you and your partner should reduce the amount of alcohol that you consume as it can reduce fertility and also pose a developmental risk to a fetus once conception has occurred. You GP will provide you with information on the effects of alcohol on fertility and pregnancy and make a recommendation as to how much and how often it is safe for you to drink.
- Medication - Your doctor will want to discuss any medication you or your partner are currently taking, whether prescription or otherwise (this includes vitamins and herbal diet supplements) to check whether they are compatible with conception and pregnancy.
- Vaccinations - Your doctor will make sure that you are up to date with your vaccinations as many cannot be given during pregnancy. It is particularly important that you have been immunised against Rubella as if contracted during pregnancy the effects on the fetus can be potentially fatal.
- Medical History - During your pre conception check up your doctor will discuss your own and your partners medical history including any hereditary or genetic diseases known to be in your family and any other factors that may affect the conception and development of a healthy pregnancy.
- Physical - Your doctor may also carry out a physical examination of you and your partner to check your immediate health. This may include screening for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and a cervical smear.
- Fertility - Your doctor will also be able to provide you with information and advice on monitoring and maximising your fertility.
Research has suggested that attending a pre conception check up with your GP can help increase your chance of conceiving a health pregnancy with fewer complications. This is thought to be because any potential problems that may affect you or your partners fertility can be identified early on so that treatment or lifestyle alterations can be made. This helps to ensure that you and your partner are in the best of health when you start trying to conceive and so gives your baby the best possible start in life.