Conceiving a child is an exciting period in any couple’s life. However, you must be physically and mentally ready for any lifestyle changes before trying for a baby. Being aware of the factors that may cause a medical issue that leads to fertility problems or lead to pregnancy and birth issues like an ectopic pregnancy or even chromosomal abnormalities in your child will help you and your partner through this magical period of your lives.
Undertaking a preconception health check-up is essential as it helps you identify any issues in your body that could impair your ability to get pregnant. It also ensures you are both compatible genetically to give birth to a healthy baby. This article explores health tests every couple looking to conceive naturally or undertake fertility treatments to get pregnant should take.
What Is A Preconception Health Test?
Preconception health tests are conducted on couples looking to get pregnant. It aims to assess their overall health. It is a series of health screening tests, including blood tests, pelvic examinations, mental health assessments, genetic testing, dental exams, and other medical checks.
These preconception tests aim to detect existing conditions that may lower your chances of conceiving, from male infertility to female infertility. The healthcare provider also help check for conditions that may cause infertility or create and unexplained abnormalities and complications during pregnancy and delivery. Besides, it also looks out for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which can be passed onto the unborn baby if contracted during pregnancy.
What Is The Importance Of A Preconception Health Check-Up?
Getting a preconception health check-up is essential for couples planning to conceive or embark on a course fertility treatment.
● It helps identify any existing medical conditions or increased risk of infections which may need to be treated before pregnancy, reducing the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery.
● It also helps assess your overall physical and mental health of both men and women, allowing you to make necessary lifestyle changes before conception.
● Men should also take preconception health tests. This help detects whether they have a high or low sperm count. And they can take the necessary measures to increase the sperm count if it’s low.
Preconception Health Test Couples Should Take
These are some early tests women and men looking to have a baby should take to ensure successful conception, safe pregnancy, and a healthy baby.
They should be used to look for a number of possible problems such as pelvic inflammatory disease, ovulation problems, thyroid dysfunction, severe endometriosis, sperm production, autoimmune conditions and hormonal imbalance.
A blood test is the most crucial test carried out as part of a pre-pregnancy health test. It helps detect deficiencies that could negatively affect your chances of getting pregnant or cause complications in pregnancy. Some conditions that can be checked through a blood test include anaemia, low vitamin D, or high cholesterol levels.
It can also check for other conditions affecting your chances of getting pregnant. These conditions include:
● Thyroid problems
● Hepatitis B
The best part about blood tests is that you don’t have to visit the hospital for the screening; with the blue horizon blood tests, you can order the home blood test kits online or have nurses visit your place.
Your doctor will examine your pelvic organs. This includes your vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries to ensure they are healthy. During the pelvic exam, your doctor may also test you for sexually transmitted diseases. And if you test positive, you can get treated before conceiving.
Mental health is essential for every individual or couple looking to get pregnant. It ensures you are mentally sound enough to care for another human being.
If your doctor’s evaluation shows you are not okay, they may refer you for counselling or psychotherapy to ensure you are mentally prepared for parenthood.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure in women is a major problem, especially if they are trying to get pregnant. This is because it is associated with increased BMI, smoking, and insulin resistance, ultimately lowering the quality of your eggs.
As we all know, your egg quality is essential as it affects the quality of the embryos produced. This, in turn, determines the success of implantation and could either lead to pregnancy failure or miscarriages.
Hypertension is also the leading cause of many pregnancy complications. These include
● Placenta abruption
● Preterm delivery and other foetal complications
The medicine used to treat hypertension in men also affects semen by reducing its volume.
If either partner has diabetes, their condition must be managed before trying for a baby, as uncontrolled diabetes can cause numerous complications such as low birth weight, preterm delivery, and congenital disabilities.
Having your sugar levels under control before conceiving will significantly reduce the risk of these issues.
Testing for sexually transmitted diseases is necessary for couples wanting to get pregnant. Sexually transmitted diseases to get tested for include:
● PID (Pelvis inflammation disease)
These diseases can lead to infertility if left untreated. They also increase the risks of miscarriage during pregnancy. Besides, some STIs can be passed onto the unborn child if transmitted during the pregnancy. So you should ensure that your tests turn negative and practice safe sex.
You must visit a genetic counsellor if you are trying for a baby. They will help you determine if your family history has diseases passed down through generations. They will help you understand how these diseases in your family affect your health and your baby’s.
Some of these conditions include:
● Spine muscular atrophy: This is a condition that attacks your spinal cord nerve cells. It results in the weakening of the muscles and affects your breathing, swallowing, and movement.
● Thalassemias: This is a condition where your body makes fewer healthy red blood cells and haemoglobin than required
So take the test before you start trying for a baby to lower or eliminate the chances of passing these diseases to your baby.
If you were infected by toxoplasmosis, you should wait for at least six months before trying for a baby. This is because the infection can seriously affect women’s health and possibly lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.
And if your baby is born successfully, they won’t show any symptoms. However, they might develop severe symptoms later in life, such as blindness or mental disability. In some rare cases, new-borns have severe brain or eye damage at birth.
A pap smear is recommended for every woman looking to get pregnant. The test helps screen for cervical cancer. Every woman above 21 should schedule a pap test every three years. And women above 31 should schedule the examination every five years.
Cystic fibrosis is a condition where a woman has thicker cervical mucus. The mucus makes it hard for the sperm to travel through the cervix to the uterus, making it hard to get pregnant. People with cystic fibrosis are advised to work closely with their physician and nutritionist to ensure they are healthy to conceive and carry the baby to term.
Otherwise, you risk suffering from fertility problems, exacerbations, premature delivery, gestational diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, developmental problems in your fetus, and hypertension.
Your oral health could have an impact on your pregnancy. Women are advised to have a dental check before getting pregnant. Periodontitis or gum inflammation is linked to preterm births and low birth weight babies. Your doctor will also advise you on maintaining your oral health during pregnancy.
Who Provides Preconception Health Check-Up’s?
Your obstetrician/gynaecologist (OB/GYN) is usually the best person to carry out pre-pregnancy tests. This is because they have in-depth knowledge of fertility and pregnancy matters.
Things You Must Do to Ensure a Successful Conception
There are several steps that you can take to increase your chances of conceiving successfully:
Maintain a healthy weight: Being underweight or overweight can lower your chances of conception. So when you are trying for a baby, a couple needs to maintain a healthy body weight.
Diet: Your nutrition plays a crucial role in trying to conceive. Ensure your meals have lots of fruits, lean meat, and vegetables. You must also eat food high in folic acid, such as whole grains, beans, nuts, and leafy greens. You must also cut out processed foods from your diet.
Exercise: Exercising regularly helps boost circulation, strengthen muscles, reduces fertility problems and improve overall health, which could help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Supplements: Supplements are essential as they help you meet your daily nutrient intake. So, take supplements to ensure you have all the necessary minerals and vitamins. This includes vitamin B6, Fish oil, and folic acid.
Stop Drug Abuse: Do not smoke or consume alcohol or other drugs when trying for a baby. For instance, smoking lowers your fertility rate and increases pregnancy complications risks. Alcohol impairs both male and female fertility, as it can lead to impotence, low libido, and low sperm quality.
Reasons You Could Be Having Trouble Conceiving
Some of us conceive without any hitches. However, it’s only the case for some, as some have difficulty conceiving for months or years without success. So what could be hindering conception?
● Blocked fallopian tube
● Polycystic ovary syndrome
● Low sperm quality
● Ejaculation disorders
● Blockage in your spermatic cord
Both partners should ensure they get better sleep and avoid stressful situations and strenuous activity as they affect fertility.
When Is The Best Age To Conceive?
The best age to conceive depends on the individual. However, experts say the best time is between your 20s and 30s. You must also consider your mental and financial capabilities.
Studies show that women are born with over 2 million eggs; the number and quality dwindle as they age. As a woman, your fertility begins to decline at 32 and faster between 35 and 37 with possible causes being the early menopause, thus lowering your chances of getting pregnant.
And the best time to conceive is during ovulation. This is usually on days 12, 13, and 14 of your menstrual cycle, provided it lasts 28 days. If your menstrual cycle is 35 days, it would be from 19, 20, and 21.
Getting a preconception health check-up before trying for a baby is crucial for every couple. It makes conception easy and lowers the chances of giving birth to a baby with developmental issues. It also helps detect other health issues and get treatment promptly. It also helps open lines of communication between couples regarding mental health, lifestyle choices, and genetic ailments.