Do you have a family history of any specific medical conditions?

Sometimes family medical history — either your history or your partner's — increases the risk of having a child who has certain medical conditions or birth defects. If genetic conditions are a concern, your health care provider might refer you to a genetic counselor for a preconception assessment.

How old are you?

After 35, the risk of fertility problems, pregnancy loss and certain chromosomal conditions increases. Some pregnancy-related complications, such as gestational diabetes, are more common in older mothers as well. Your health care provider can help you put these risks into perspective, as well as develop a plan to give your baby the best start.

Have you been pregnant before?

Your health care provider will ask about previous pregnancies. Be sure to mention any complications you might have had, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, preterm labor, premature birth or birth defects.

If you had a previous pregnancy involving a neural tube defect, your health care provider will likely recommend a higher daily dose of folic acid than what's found in most prenatal vitamins.

If you have any concerns or fears about another pregnancy, share them with your health care provider. He or she will help you understand the best ways to boost your chances of a healthy pregnancy.

Would your current lifestyle support a healthy pregnancy?

Healthy lifestyle choices during pregnancy are essential. For example:

  • Your health care provider will likely discuss the importance of a healthy diet, regular physical activity and managing stress.
  • If you're underweight or overweight, your health care provider might recommend addressing your weight before you conceive.
  • It's also important to avoid alcohol, illegal drugs and exposure to toxic substances.
  • If you smoke, ask your health care provider about resources to help you quit.

What about your partner's lifestyle?

If possible, ask your partner to attend the preconception visit with you. Your partner's health and lifestyle — including family medical history and risk factors for infections or birth defects — are important because they can affect both you and the baby.

July 03, 2012 See more In-depth