Preconception planning: Is your body ready for pregnancy?

Preconception planning can help you and your partner understand how to boost your chances of a healthy pregnancy. Here's what to expect during a preconception appointment. By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you've decided to get pregnant, you might be emotionally prepared to have a baby — but is your body ready for the task ahead?

To help ensure a healthy pregnancy, schedule a preconception appointment with your health care provider as soon as you begin thinking about pregnancy. A preconception appointment is especially important if you're in your 30s or 40s or you have any chronic health conditions or special concerns. Be ready to answer questions like these.

What type of birth control have you been using?

If you've been taking birth control pills, ovulation is possible as soon as two weeks after you stop taking the pill — although it takes longer for some women. You don't need to take a pill-free break before trying to conceive. However, it'll be somewhat easier to estimate when you ovulated and when your baby is due if you have at least one normal period before conceiving. If you plan to wait a few months, use a backup form of birth control while your menstrual cycle gets back to normal.

If you've been using certain types of long-term birth control — such as progestin implants or injections — your return to fertility might take somewhat longer. Still, most women conceive within 12 months of stopping any type of reversible birth control.

Are your vaccines current?

Infections such as chickenpox (varicella), German measles (rubella) and hepatitis B can be dangerous for an unborn baby. If your immunizations aren't complete or you're not sure if you're immune to certain infections, your preconception care might include one or more vaccines — preferably at least one month before you try to conceive.

Do you have any chronic medical conditions?

If you have a chronic medical condition — such as diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure — make sure it's under control before you conceive. In some cases, your health care provider might recommend adjusting your medication or other treatments before pregnancy. Your health care provider also will explain any special care you might need during pregnancy.

Are you taking any medications or supplements?

Tell your health care provider about any medications, herbs or supplements you're taking. Depending on the product, your health care provider might recommend changing doses, switching to something else or stopping the product before you conceive.

This is also the time to start taking prenatal vitamins. Why so early? The baby's neural tube — which becomes the brain and spinal cord — develops during the first month of pregnancy, possibly before you even know that you're pregnant. Taking prenatal vitamins before conception helps prevent neural tube defects.

Are you at risk of a sexually transmitted infection?

Sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia can interfere with your ability to conceive. These infections also pose risks to both mother and baby during pregnancy. If you're at risk of a sexually transmitted infection — or you think you or your partner might have an infection — ask your health care provider about preconception screening and treatment.

July 03, 2012 See more In-depth