Pregnancy counselling is a great measure that helps couple follow the known path – eat right, learn about the ovulation calendar, days when fertility is at its best, benefits of more frequent sex etc. But, often, couples tend to focus on the routine and obvious things and fail to consider the benefits of a pre-pregnancy counselling session which has the potential to produce the desired results in a more convenient and methodical way. Let us, therefore, explore why pre-pregnancy counselling can be important for you:-
Pre-pregnancy counselling affords an opportunity to delve into potential concerns that could be pre-existing or present a challenge to pregnancy. These could include problems experienced in an earlier pregnancy, past or present health concerns of both partners that could impact conception and measures needed to address those concerns. Thankfully, many of the problems that occur during the first pregnancy may not be repetitive. However, pre-pregnancy counselling gains importance to avoid the risk of potential recurrence.
Best candidates for pre-pregnancy counselling
Pre-pregnancy counselling is ideal in any one or more of the following situations:-
- Repeated attempts at getting pregnant not producing desired results
- Previous instances of stillbirths and miscarriages
- Birth defects in children born earlier
- Exposure to environmental toxins for one or both partners potentially impacting conception or development of the foetus during pregnancy
- Expectant mother suffering from diabetes or other health issues like low blood pressure, hypertension etc.
- Both partners having medical problems such as with liver, kidney or heart
- Expectant mother having undergone any surgery like heart surgery or surgery for renal failure.
- Any autoimmune diseases are affecting the expectant mother.
Type of tests carried out as part of a pre-pregnancy counselling
One or more of the following tests may be recommended as part of the pre-pregnancy counselling:-
Routine blood test – Dr Shelley Rowlands, an obstetrician at East Melbourne Obstetrics and Gynaecology, says a routine blood test can be advised for both partners to understand any underlying health issues needing attention and having the potential to impact conception/pregnancy.
CBC Count: This test is to help extinguish the chances of anaemia in the mother since low haemoglobin numbers can adversely impact foetal health and development upon successful conception. In most situations, such a condition, if present, can be effectively addressed when it is detected before conception to ensure good health of the foetus and a smooth pregnancy.
Antibody test for Rubella
This test addresses concerns about antibody to German measles or Rubella and vaccination is recommended in instances where the woman is not immune to the disease. Ideally, the woman is advised to avoid pregnancy till the vaccine has completely cleared from the blood which could take about four weeks.
Impairment of thyroid functions can potentially trigger fertility issues in women. The symptoms are often subtle in the case of thyroid dysfunction and can be detected only through tests. If a woman conceives without ensuring optimal thyroid functions, it has the potential to affect the baby’s IQ and neurodevelopment.
This test may be recommended for both parents to identify any thalassemia gene. When both parents have this condition, they may have a 25% chance of the baby being affected.
Vitamin deficiency – Vitamin deficiency is common in women and low level of vitamin B12 or vitamin D can impact pregnancy or cause trouble during lactation. Therefore, it is essential to correct such deficiencies during pregnancy and better still, during conception itself.
Pap smear test – This is a routine test during pre-pregnancy counselling to ascertain the presence of cancerous growth around the cervix which could be harmful to the baby during the process of delivering the baby.
Genetic counselling – Genetic counselling is aimed at identifying past stillbirth, recurrent miscarriage, congenital defects in child/children born earlier, restricted growth of the uterus etc. and measures initiated to prevent recurrence of such issues during a new pregnancy.
Preparing for pre-pregnancy counselling
Preparing for your pre-pregnancy counselling is simple and easy. In the first place, you will need to collate all your medical records in one place. This is particularly important if you had an earlier instance of surgery, failed pregnancy, or any ongoing medication. Similarly, your husband/partner should also accompany you with his medical records and details of any medication he is taking.
Relax and keep an open mind
Remember that the investigation and analysis by your doctor may not always go in your favour. However, you should not be disappointed and should instead look at options available and speak to your partner about the next course of action that is open to you.
Disclose all relevant information to your doctor
You should make sure that your doctor has all relevant information that could impact the reproductive system in you and your partner. All previous vaccinations, hospitalization, and medication are relevant to determine if you are fit and healthy for getting pregnant.
Most of us are aware of the complex process of the human reproductive system. Although women, in general, are capable of combating the physical changes and demands across the pregnancy and the lactating state, some women suffer from various health issues impacting their ability to conceive healthy babies and carry the pregnancy safely through the birthing process. Some women also suffer recurrent pregnancy losses and that makes it even more essential to take pre-pregnancy counselling to identify and eliminate potential causes leading up to pregnancy losses. In some situations, a series of interventions may be essential at the pre-conception stage and close monitoring of a future pregnancy. The overall objective of pre-pregnancy counselling is to ensure the health and well being of both the mother and the foetus by initiating preventive measures and making lifestyle changes where necessary.