Preconception Advice from a Sydney GP

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You’re thinking of having a baby. Now what? It’s a daunting process, but we’ve compiled all the essential information you need in the one place so you can plan ahead with confidence.

Step 1: Discuss this with your support network

Trying to have a baby is a huge emotional, physical, financial and spiritual journey, one that will be far easier with a supportive partner on the same page. We recommend having this discussion early.

If you don’t have a partner, and are doing this on your own (you go girl), we recommend letting your nearest and dearest in on your plans as this is a major life journey to go through, and having some cheerleaders behind you will be infinitely helpful along the way.

Step 2: Optimise your lifestyle.

Stick to healthy habits, such as following a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise (at least 30 minutes 5 days a week), optimal sleep, and an achievable work-life balance, to keep your body and mind fit during this crucial time of life.

Step 3: Build your resources

For females in particular, folate and iodine are essential building blocks to support a growing foetus. Most prenatal vitamins contain the recommended doses and should be started at least three months before trying to conceive. Note that some women will be recommended larger doses and even other supplements depending on their risk factors – this is for a discussion with your doctor.

Step 4: Assume pregnancy is possible

If you are not using contraception but are having regular unprotected intercourse, assume you could get pregnant at any point. Therefore, we recommend staying away from things like alcohol, cigarettes, and recreational drugs. We also recommend a review of any regular prescribed medications or unregulated supplements you may be taking, as sometimes these may be harmful to pregnancies in the early stages, and need to be excluded when trying to conceive.

For those planning assisted fertility treatments with or without a partner, we recommend following the same guidelines pre-conception as above.

Step 5: Check in with your GP

How long do you wait until you seek medical input? A preconception appointment is a great opportunity to discuss all of the above, and answer the many questions you will have. It is also a great opportunity to get up to date with outstanding screening procedures like cervical screening tests or breast checks, that are easier done when not yet pregnant if possible. Immunisations too may be recommended at this stage. We recommend finding a GP with a special interest in women’s health, antenatal care, preventative health and wellbeing, child health, as preconception and pregnancy care covers all of the above!

The next step is organising a discussion with your GP about genetic carrier screening for both you and your partner. For those with chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes or thyroid conditions, these should be managed so they are stabilised well before trying for a pregnancy. Some medications may also need to be changed so they are safe to take in a future pregnancy.

In terms of referrals to fertility specialists, here we refer to the guidelines for subfertility. If it has been more than 12 months for women under 35 years old, or 6 months for women over 35 years old, it’s time to think about further medical input. These are just guidelines, so if you want to seek fertility specialist opinion well before this, your GP will support this.

Step 6: Reach out for help

If your pregnancy pathway isn’t going to plan, please reach out to your local support networks, including your GP. We are here to help – however we can – whether it be building awareness around what is normal (and what isn’t), the next steps in investigations and treatments, and the right people to see next.

Resources we recommend:

MotherSafe NSW

https://www.seslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/royal-hospital-for-women/services-clinics/directory/mothersafe

NSW Health: 

Thinking of Having a Baby: 

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/kidsfamilies/MCFhealth/Pages/thinking-of-having-a-baby.aspx

Smoking in Pregnancy:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/tobacco/Factsheets/smoking-and-pregnancy.pdf

Iodine supplements in pregnancy:

https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/kidsfamilies/MCFhealth/maternity/Factsheets/iodine-supplements-factsheet.pdf