Could the most important relationship in your family’s life be the one you have with your GP?
Obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Steven Hatzikostas thinks so, saying the first step in achieving a health pregnancy is attending pre-pregnancy counselling.
“A GP who knows you and your medical history should be the first person to consult. They will be aware of any pre-existing diseases that you may have such as hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disease, and connective tissue disorders,” said Dr Hatzikostas.
“Your GP will also be aware of any problems encountered in previous pregnancies such as recurrent miscarriage, chromosome abnormalities and even a family history of inherited genetic abnormalities.
“These can have a more dramatic effect on the health of the baby and the mother, and for which much care needs to be taken during pregnancy.”
While the advice given on health tips to take during pregnancy like exercise and diet is prolific, the primary focus should be on pre-pregnancy counselling in order to maximise the chances of having a healthy pregnancy in the first place.
Dr Hatzikostas said obstetric care for pregnant women with underlying medical conditions or a history of miscarriages or irregular periods is carefully monitored and carried out under the guidance of team of medical specialists, to ensure the health of mother and baby.
“Women might have to take additional medications, or avoid others – and we need to know this information before the pregnancy begins before they have an adverse reaction.”
How long to prepare for?
Six months should be the minimum amount of preparation time said Dr Hatzikostas.
Vaccinations need to be brought up to date, and this is the time to do it as there needs to be a period following some of the recommended vaccines where pregnancy is risky. The Australian Government Department of Health website provides more information on vaccinations for pregnancy.
It is important to check your vaccination status with a health professional rather than assuming you are protected, as these researchers from the University of Sydney have found that many Australians born between 1966 and 1994 did not complete their full schedule of measles vaccinations.
Taking the vitamins and supplements that are recommended for pregnancy should commence now in order to build the stores in your body and assist fertility.
Ideally women should also spend six months changing any bad lifestyle habits they may have such as drinking excessive alcohol, taking drugs, smoking and this is the time to get fit.
“Getting fit during pregnancy is the wrong time to start – but maintaining your fitness is good, said Dr Hatzikostas.
If it is discovered that weight loss is an issue and you have a high BMI, this can have repercussions for fertility when trying to conceive. It can also be linked with developing gestational diabetes and and hypertension during pregnancy. This is another good reason to seek pre-pregnancy counselling.
“Rather than discovering you have a thyroid problem, and trying to deal with it once you are already pregnant it really is better to have this under control first,” said Dr Hatzikostas.
“I have had the experience of caring for patients with complicated pregnancies. Unfortunately some problems cannot be predicted but pre-pregnancy counselling can often alert the doctor to current problems and to the areas of potential obstetric risks – that’s where good obstetric care really starts.”
- For more information visit HealthShare, a joint venture with Fairfax to improve the health of regional Australians. Or you can find a specialist near you using the health tool below.