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Doc’s Box

Dear Neighbors, Historically the late summer months are when we see the most babies born. It is an exciting thing to have the opportunity be a part of your family’s new beginnings. This brings us to this and next week’s topics: preconception and prenatal care.

What is preconception care? Literally the word means “before pregnancy” medical care. This can include a healthcare visit, screenings, vaccinations, medication review, and lifestyle changes to improve pregnancy outcomes for the mother and baby. Various studies and statistics cite that approximately half of births in the United States are unplanned, so many women of childbearing age -- even those without immediate plans for pregnancy -- may consider at least visiting with their physician about their medical portfolio in the case of pregnancy.

So why is preconception care important? The first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy is when key fetal growth and development is occurring, and since many mothers do not realize that they are pregnant until well into the first trimester, it may be helpful to ensure that your medications, nutrition, lifestyle, etc is optimized prior to pregnancy.

What can I expect at a preconception visit? You should expect a customized visit in which we review your medical history, surgical history, past pregnancy history, family history, tobacco/alcohol/substance use, medications, weight, nutrition, vitamins (especially folic acid intake), and various other items. Also, depending on a patient’s particular health characteristics, we may draw labs, change medications, discuss contraception options, or means to improve your chances of success at pregnancy -- depending on your goals.

What can I start doing now? There are various things you can start doing now -- even before you visit with your doctor. Unless you have been advised otherwise, start taking a prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. You may need even more than this depending on certain health history (such as neural tube defects or seizure disorders) -- so make sure you run this by your physician. Also, if you use tobacco, drink alcohol, or use street drugs, seek treatment to stop use before you become pregnant. Finally, try to achieve a healthy body weight with a varied diet with whole fruits and vegetables and at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/preconception/planning.html

Be Well, Friends, Dr A.

Doc’s Box is a weekly column written by Shiv Agarwal, MD with Global Family PracticeSM, pLLC as well as other colleagues. Any medical opinions in this column are general and should not be adopted without first visiting and discussing with your Family Physician. To protect your privacy and personal health information, please direct your health questions to your personal physician during a scheduled office visit in lieu of writing in to the column. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Agarwal, reach his scheduling team at 940-567-5528.

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