Pre-Pregnancy Checkup



Should I have a pre-pregnancy checkup before I try to become pregnant?

What other health issues should I be concerned about when I’m thinking about having a baby?

Are there any special medical circumstances to think about?




Should I have a pre-pregnancy checkup before I try to become pregnant?

A pre-pregnancy checkup is a smart idea. Your health care provider can help you minimize risks associated with pregnancy and any existing medical conditions that could affect and/or be affected by pregnancy.  The more you can inform your caregiver before you conceive about your medical and family history, medications you take, any past pregnancies you've had, and your diet and lifestyle, the better advice he/she can give you to help you have a healthy pregnancy.

If you are taking any prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, or alternative or herbal remedies, your caregiver can advise you about how and why you may need to change your practices.  Some drugs, and even seemingly harmless ones like some acne medicines or certain vitamins, can actually have the opposite affect on you once you become pregnant and/or could affect your baby.  

A pre-pregnancy checkup is good idea if you have an existing medical condition that could pose risks to you and/or your baby during pregnancy such as:
  • Asthma
  • Auto-immune disorders such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, HIV, or AIDS
  • Blood Disorders such as Hemoglobinopathy or Hyperphenylalaninemia
  • Cancer
  • Deep Venous Thrombosis
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart Disease
  • Hemoblobinopathies
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid Disorders
It is possible to have a successful pregnancy if you have one of these chronic conditions, but it may be considered a high risk pregnancy and you will have to take some special precautions.

At your pre-pregnancy checkup, you should discuss the medications you are taking or should be taking for any of these conditions, as your health care provider will want to evaluate them in terms of their affect on you and the developing fetus.

Even if you think you are healthy and ready to get pregnant, a pre-pregnancy checkup is a good opportunity to start asking questions.  Make a list of issues before your appointment and ask your caregiver for information.

What other health issues should I be concerned about when I’m thinking about having a baby?

You should definitely see a health care professional if you:
  • may have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease
  • may have been exposed to certain childhood diseases
  • need any immunization booster shots
Exposure to a sexually transmitted disease can be harmful to you and your baby. Sexually transmitted diseases of greatest risk to women and their infants are:
  • AIDS/HIV: can be transmitted to the fetus
  • Hepatitis B: infected fetuses have a 25% chance of dying from a liver-related disease unless treated within days of birth
  • Chlamydia : can lead to ectopic (outside uterous) pregnancy
  • Gonorrhea: can lead to ectopic (outside uterous) pregnancy
  • Syphilis: can cause congenital anomalies and fetal/infant death
  • Herpes: prescribed abstinence during outbreaks increases the time it takes to conceive
  • Trichomoniasis: a vaginal inflammation which may lead to infertility
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) (may lead to genital warts): is associated with cervical cancer, treatment of which can affect fertility
  • Herpes Simplex Viruses (HSV): can be passed onto the infant during vaginal delivery, may lead to brain damage, blindness, mental retardation and infant death
Most sexually transmitted diseases can be cured using drugs such as antibiotics; there is an immunization against Hepatitis B.  But, some cannot and expose you and your baby to risks.  Both you and your partner should be screened and, if necessary and if possible, treated before you try to become pregnant, since some can cause infertility, miscarriage, preterm birth, and infant death.

You should be aware that many of these diseases can have no symptoms. On general principle, if you are planning to get pregnant, have a pre-pregnancy checkup and ask your health care provider for the appropriate tests for sexually transmitted diseases.

Exposure to chickenpox, rubella (German measles), and the measles during pregnancy can cause birth defects in your baby. Before getting pregnant, you should make sure that you are immune to these common childhood diseases, either because you have had them already or because you've been vaccinated against them. If you don't have your childhood medical records you can find out through a simple blood test if you are immune to these conditions. Most women are immune. However, if it turns out you need an immunization shot, wait at least three months after having that shot before trying to get pregnant.

If you need booster shots for mumps, polio, or tetanus, the same caution should be taken; wait at least three months after having the last booster shot before trying to get pregnant.

Are there any special medical circumstances to think about?

If you are over 35 or have a family history of congenital (inherited) birth defects, you might want to consult with a genetic counselor.

© 2014 Childbirth Connection. All rights reserved.

Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality of maternity care through research, education, advocacy and policy. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
Most recent page update: 10/26/2012