Preparing to have a baby is not something that should be done in an impulsive manner as pregnancy and delivery are life changing events. With this in mind health care providers now believe that healthy women should attend a pre-conception clinic to prepare for a new pregnancy. Pre-conception clinic targets women within the reproductive age (16-45yrs), to enable them plan and prepare for a pregnancy in the future. In certain categories of women, the attendance of a preconception clinic is mandatory and not optional. This includes women with the following.
(i) Chronic medical conditions such as diabetes mellitus, asthma, high blood pressure, epilepsy, kidney disease. In this group of women, their medical conditions have to be optimized before they consider pregnancy. They have to be in the best optimum stage of health in order to cope with the challenges of pregnancy.
(ii) Women with previous delivery of babies with birth defects (congenital abnormalities) will as a matter of necessity require a preconception clinic attendance.
(iii) Use of birth control medications/measures.
Women who have been using birth control medications should attend a pre-conception clinic to plan your first or next pregnancy as the case may be. Those on hormone based medications will need to be counseled on when to stop their medication and plan for a pregnancy.
(iv) Maternal age
Teenage women who are contemplating pregnancies should have pre-conception clinic as this will them come to terms with the peculiar risk faced by pregnant teenagers as they will now be able to make informed decisions about getting pregnant or not.
Research has shown that women who become pregnant after the age of thirty five (35) years will also require a visit to the pre-conception clinic, as women in this age category generally exhibit higher risk of developing pregnancy complications and having baby with chromosomal, genetic abnormalities and birth defect. This risk is however not high enough for you to be alarmed as studies have shown that risk of chromosomal abnormality at age 35 is about 1 in 250. This is to say in 250 pregnancies among women age 35 just one will have chromosomal abnormality. In the general population this risk is 1 in 1100.
(v) Women who consume significant quantities of alcohol who take recreational drugs should attend a pre-conception clinic to have counseling and help to stop the habit before they consider pregnancy.
(vi) Any woman with history of recurrent miscarriage or any unfavourable experience in a previous pregnancy should have pre-conception counseling and care before preparing for another pregnancy.
(vii) A pre-conception clinic is necessary for male or female with any personal or family history of genetic or familial conditions such as sickle cell disease, its carrier state or cystic fibrosis. During the pre-conception visits, couples are counseled on the various options available to them.
(viii) Women with history of prior exposure to environmental toxins and infections agent. Environmental toxins include radiation and radioactive substances and chemical agents present in some paints and pesticide. Some of these chemical agents such as mercury can contaminate the water body and sea foods such as shark, sword fishes and tuna. When these sea-foods are consumed, they can cross the placenta and affect the neural system of babies. Women contemplating pregnancy are usually discouraged from the consumption of these kinds of sea-foods. Infections agents such as certain viruses such as cytomegalovirus, parvo-virus rubella and respiratory syncytial virus. These viruses can exert adverse effect on pregnancy and pregnancy outcome.
(ix) The lists of conditions that require mandatory pre-conception care are quite inexhaustible and ideally every woman should have some degree of emotional and physical preparation towards pregnancy. The benefits of pre-conception care are proven and without doubt. It is however sad that in most centers of sub-Saharan Africa; pre-conception clinics are not organized for women in the reproductive age group.