Prenatal medical care is critical to assure the health of both the pregnant woman and her baby. Many experts recommend women to begin seeing a gynaecologist when they start planning to conceive for preconception or pre-pregnancy care. While seeing a doctor before becoming pregnant seems excessive, preconception care helps women have a healthy pregnancy.
Pre-pregnancy screening ensures the mother and her partner do not have any underlying health condition that could impact the pregnancy or the chances of conception. It also helps lower the risks of miscarriage or birth defects.
What is a Pre-pregnancy Check-up or Screening?
Preconception health check-up or pre-pregnancy screening is a medical check that an obstetrician or a gynaecologist performs to make sure women planning to conceive are in a good state of health. It includes physical assessment and various screening tests to detect any existing medical issues, genetic disorders or infectious diseases which could be passed down to the baby when a woman gets pregnant.
A woman’s risk factors are assessed in terms of the following:
- Potential for inherited genetic disorders
- Medical conditions
- Nutritional status
- Vaccination status
- Exposure to environmental teratogens and toxins
- Exposure to infectious diseases
- Use of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs
- Psychosocial issues
The screening may also include vaccinations and counselling. The doctor might advise women with pre-existing conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, PCOS, hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, to take long-term medication.
Why is Pre-pregnancy Check Essential?
Although many Singaporean women and married couples are aware of antenatal care, not many are conscious of the importance of Prenatal Care. Many couples assume that preconception care only includes consuming a balanced diet and folic acid every day. This assumption, however, is inaccurate.
Pre-pregnancy care and check-up help fully assess and prepare women and their partners for a healthy pregnancy and resolve any existing health problems. Proper care can ensure existing medical conditions, such as asthma, thyroid disorder, high blood pressure and diabetes, are under control and the medications taken to treat the conditions do not pose any adverse effect on the pregnancy.
Moreover, the screening is becoming more essential as many couples in Singapore delay childbearing until they reach the age of thirty and above. Women who give birth at thirty-five years old, whether it is her second or first pregnancy, are categorised as elderly mothers, In such circumstances, the couple needs to manage their health before pregnancy starts with proper advice from a gynaecologist or obstetrician during the pregnancy planning process.
What to Expect During a Pre-pregnancy Check?
The following are the things women would undergo in a pre-pregnancy check:
- Consultation With the Gynaecologist: During a pre-pregnancy screening, the gynae will begin with a consultation with the patients to understand their medical history and possibly their partner. This process helps highlight any possible factors which might affect fertility and pregnancy and allow the gynae to create the right plan for the woman’s pregnancy preparation.
- Physical Exam and Pelvic Ultrasound: The doctor will perform a physical examination and a pelvic ultrasound to ensure the woman’s uterus and ovaries are in good condition. If the doctor detects any problems, they can recommend early treatment to prevent delaying the pregnancy plans.
- Blood Tests: The doctor will request for a series of blood tests to detect any thyroid issues and potential infectious illnesses, including HIV, herpes, hepatitis B and STDs, which can affect pregnancy. The blood test may also check for immunity against chickenpox, rubella and genetic conditions like thalassemia. This test allows the doctor to assess underlying health conditions and recommend necessary measures, such as vaccination before pregnancy.
Besides, depending on the women’s medical history, blood test and physical exam results, the gynaecologist may provide tailored pregnancy preparation tips to increase their chances of having a healthy pregnancy. These tips include:
- Consuming 0.4 mg of Folic Acid Per Day: Folic acid, which can be found naturally in leafy green vegetables, is shown to help reduce the risk of birth defects. Medical experts suggest consuming a multivitamin with folic acid every day for three months before pregnancy and continue taking it every day throughout the pregnancy. The doctor may recommend women with a history of having a foetus with birth defects of the spinal cord and brain to take a higher dose of folic acid.
- Avoid Alcohol and Drugs: Aside from staying away from illicit drugs, women should talk with the best gynecologist Singapore about whether they should stop taking certain medications or herbal supplements.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking can make it harder for women to conceive and increase the risk of health issues in developing foetus, including low birth weight, preterm birth and birth defects of the lip and mouth.
- Eat Well and Exercise Regularly: Maintaining a healthy weight is essential before and during pregnancy. The doctors may recommend avoiding certain fish like king mackerel since they contain high mercury levels, which can cause pregnancy problems.
Pre-pregnancy screening is essential for both pregnant women and their baby. It assesses and prepares women and their spouses for a healthy pregnancy and controls any existing health conditions.