What is a preconception checkup and why is it important?

A preconception checkup helps your health care provider make sure that your body is ready for pregnancy. If you can, get your checkup from the health care provider you want to take care of you during pregnancy. You can get a preconception checkup any time — even up to a year before you want to get pregnant.

Some medical conditions, like depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and not being at a healthy weight can affect pregnancy and your fertility (your ability to get pregnant).Your provider can help you manage health conditions and make changes in your life to help your baby be born healthy.  

Get a preconception checkup even if you’ve already had a baby. Your health may have changed since you were last pregnant. If you had a problem in a past pregnancy, your provider may be able to help you avoid the same problem in your next pregnancy. Get a preconception checkup if you’ve had:

  • Premature birth. This is birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
  • A baby with birth defects. Birth defects are health conditions that are present at birth. They change the shape or function of one or more parts of the body. They can cause problems in overall health, in how the body develops or in how the body works.
  • Miscarriage. This is when a baby dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Stillbirth. This is when a baby dies in the womb before birth, but after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

What happens at a preconception checkup?

  • At your preconception checkup, your provider checks your overall health to make sure your body is ready for pregnancy. You and your provider can talk about: 
  • Folic acid. Folic acid is a vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. If you take folic acid before pregnancy and during early pregnancy, it can help protect your baby from birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects, and birth defects of the mouth called cleft lip and palate. Before pregnancy, take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms (also called mcg) of folic acid in it each day. 
  • Health conditions that can affect your pregnancy. These include diabetes, depression, high blood pressure and not being at a healthy weight. Your provider checks you for infections, like toxoplasmosis and sexually transmitted diseases (also called STDs), like genital herpes and human immunodeficiency virus (also called HIV). Your provider also asks about your family health history to see if any health conditions run in your family or your partner’s family. Family health history is a record of any health problems and treatments that you, your partner and everyone in both of your families has had.
  • Medicines you take. Your provider want to make sure any medicine you take is safe for your baby..
  • Vaccinations. Vaccinations contain medicine that makes you immune to certain diseases. If you’re immune, you can’t get the disease. Infections like chickenpox and rubella (also called German measles) can harm you and your baby during pregnancy. It’s best to get caught up on vaccinations for these infections before you get pregnant. 
  • Smoking
  • When to stop using birth control..

Your provider may:

  • Give you a physical exam that includes taking your weight and checking your blood pressure
  • Give you a pelvic exam. This is an exam of the pelvic organs, like the vagina, cervix, uterus and ovaries, to make sure they’re healthy. The cervix is the opening to your uterus that sits at the top of the vagina. If you have any problems in these organs, getting treatment before pregnancy may help prevent problems during pregnancy. Treatment also can help if you have fertility problems (problems getting pregnant). 
  • Do a Pap test. This is a medical test in which your provider collects cells from your cervix to check for cancer. 
  • Test your blood to check your blood type and Rh factor. Rh factor is a protein found on red blood cells. If your Rh factor is negative, it can cause problems for your baby if her Rh factor is positive.

Do you need a dental checkup before pregnancy?

  • Yes. Keep your regular dental checkups before and during pregnancy. Some studies show a link between gum disease and having a premature or low-birthweight baby. Low birthweight means your baby weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth. If you have gum disease, getting treatment before pregnancy may prevent health problems in you and your baby. 
    When you see your dentist, tell him you’re planning to get pregnant. And when you visit your dentist during pregnancy, make sure he knows you’re pregnant.