Preconception Care: Improving the Health of Women and Families.
Approximately 50% of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended. Most pregnancies are not diagnosed until after the period of organogenesis.
Environmental exposures, chronic and acute illnesses, and ingestion of teratogens that can negatively affect the fetus may occur during these early weeks of pregnancy. Some chronic disease effects and lifestyle behaviors that affect the fetus can be adjusted prior to conception.
Because of this, the health of a woman and her partner prior to pregnancy are of utmost importance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative have established goals and evidence-based guidelines for preconceptioncare.
Preconception health care can be threaded into every visit with all women of reproductive age who are not pregnant. The guidelines focus on 3 main areas: screening, health promotion, and interventions.
Screening is accomplished with women and couples via a thorough history and assessment of risks including a reproductive life plan; assessment of tobacco, alcohol and drug use; sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and education; and assessment of environmental or teratogenic risk factors.
Health promotion includes making sure the woman is current with regard to recommended vaccines, taking appropriate levels of folic acid, and maintaining a healthy weight and level of physical activity.
The health care provider can intervene when indicated with management of chronic and acute illnesses, as well as provide assistance with tobacco, alcohol, and drug cessation as necessary.
When a woman and her partner are healthy prior to pregnancy, unintended or planned, the woman and her fetus have a better chance at a healthy gestation and beyond. This article, via the use of case presentations, reviews how preconceptionhealth can be integrated into an office visit…