The decisions you make during the first month of your pregnancy will set the stage for your future baby’s health and development. However, many women don’t even learn that they’re pregnant until they’re nearing the end of that first month (or even later) (1). That’s why a preconception visit—a doctor’s appointment before you start trying to conceive—could be so important. During this visit, you’ll talk to your doctor about your current health, and they’ll give you recommendations to help you get your body ready for pregnancy. Below, we’ll break down exactly what kind of information you need to know before you start trying to conceive (TTC).
Why should you talk to your doctor before trying to conceive?
Your preconception visit with your doctor will have one main goal: to help you plan for a healthy pregnancy. During this appointment, you and your doctor will talk through your lifestyle and medical history. They’ll help you spot any potential health risks that could affect your pregnancy, take steps to minimize those risks, and get your body ready for pregnancy. It’s a good idea for your partner to get a preconception checkup as well, so your doctor can determine if and how their family and medical history may come into play as you two try to conceive (2).
In addition to increasing your chances of having a healthy pregnancy, a preconception checkup may also help your doctor identify any factors that may affect your chances of getting pregnant in the first place, such as weight or hormonal issues. Ideally, you should schedule this appointment at least three months before you start trying to conceive. Depending on your specific situation, getting your body ready for pregnancy may take a few months or longer. Preconception health care is especially important for women in their 30s and 40s (1, 2, 3).
Here are 8 questions you should definitely ask during your preconception visit:
1. Can you tell me anything about my chances of getting pregnant?
Your doctor may not be able to speak in-depth about the state of your fertility during this visit, but they could probably give you insight into how your age and medical history may affect your chances of getting pregnant naturally. During this visit, you should also ask any questions you have about when or how you should have sex to give you the best chances of conceiving.
2. Do I have any health conditions that could affect my fertility or pregnancy?
Your doctor may suggest getting any chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, under control before you start trying to get pregnant. They’ll also be able to talk you through any special care that you may need during pregnancy due to these conditions. Other issues that may need to be addressed before you conceive include depression, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), thyroid disease, obesity, and eating disorders (1, 2, 3).
3. Should I make any changes to my current medications?
It’s important to talk with your doctor about all the medications you’re currently taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as vitamins and herbal supplements. You’ll want to cut out any products that may make it harder for you to conceive or harm the health of you or your child during your pregnancy. On the flip side, your physician may also recommend that you begin taking supplements or prenatal vitamins before you start TTC (1, 3).
4. Should I make any lifestyle changes before TTC?
Your diet, activity level, and mental health could all affect your ability to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy. Be honest with your doctor about your current situation, and they’ll be able to tell you which (if any) changes you should make before you start trying to conceive. Some suggestions may include losing or gaining weight, stopping smoking, or finding new ways to manage your stress (1, 4).
5. Should I get any vaccinations before trying to get pregnant?
Some infections, such as chickenpox (varicella) and German measles (rubella), may cause potentially severe health problems in an unborn baby. To minimize the risk to you and your child, your doctor will want to make sure that all of your vaccinations are up-to-date before you start trying to get pregnant. You should get any needed vaccines at least one month before you start TTC (1, 3).
6. Do I need to get genetic testing done?
Genetic testing, also called carrier screening, may help you determine whether you or your partner carry a gene for different genetic disorders. Your doctor may recommend that you and your partner undergo genetic counseling or testing if you have any risk factors such as a family history of any genetic disorders, belonging to an at-risk ethnic group, or a history of two or more pregnancy losses (2, 5, 6).
7. Should I see a specialist?
No matter how great a relationship you have with your primary care physician, they may recommend you start seeing a different doctor if you’re trying to conceive. (If your current physician isn’t an obstetrician, you’ll definitely want to find one to help guide you through your pregnancy journey.) Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist to help you with any medical conditions or risk factors that they don’t feel equipped to deal with.
8. What are the first things I should do when I get a positive pregnancy test?
Few sights bring a rush of emotions as powerful as those that come with seeing a positive pregnancy test for the first time. Then comes the (equally powerful) surge of questions, most of which can be boiled down to this: what do I do now? Even from the very first moments of your pregnancy, you’ll want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to care for the health of you and your baby. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor ahead of time what steps you should take after finding out that you may be pregnant.
Your preconception visit is your chance to be proactive about facing (and minimizing) any health issues or risks that may affect your pregnancy. You should feel comfortable asking any and all questions you have about getting pregnant, and your doctor should give you the information you need to feel confident as you take your first steps towards conceiving. Open, honest communication between you and your doctor will give you the best chances of having a happy, healthy pregnancy.