Many couples take a conscious approach to pregnancy planning and undergo examinations well in advance. This is the right approach, which is practiced throughout the civilized world. If you pass the tests before conception, correct mistakes in time – significantly increases the likelihood of spontaneous pregnancy, without the use of assisted reproductive technology, and all 9 months proceed smoothly. This article tells you about the rules of preconception preparation.
Why to have tests when planning a pregnancy
The purpose of tests during pregnancy planning is to ensure maximum health of organism, so that by the time of conception both spouses are able to produce healthy sex cells, and a woman may bear and give birth to a baby without negative consequences for herself. It is known that any diseases reduce the likelihood of spontaneous conception, can cause miscarriage, premature birth, stunted growth and development of the foetus, congenital malformations of the baby, chromosomal abnormalities, problems during delivery, maternal and infant mortality, complications during pregnancy.
The examination allows health problems, including infectious and chronic diseases, to be ruled out in advance. Some diseases may be asymptomatic and can only be detected after careful diagnosis – this is the benefit of diagnosis.
There is a standard list of tests before conception. They are reflected in the clinical protocol for preconception preparation. It is advisable to start preparing 3 months before conception.
First, the doctor counsels the couple and clarifies whether they have already had a pregnancy, how it ended and whether there has been infertility. The parents-to-be then have tests taken. If abnormalities are detected, the doctor prescribes additional tests and treatment. Follow-up diagnostics are then carried out in order to assess the development. When all the tests show good results, both husband and wife may try to have a baby.
Standard tests before conception include measuring height, body weight and calculating the body mass index. Your doctor will measure your blood pressure, calculate your heart rate and carry out a standard examination of your respiratory, heart, digestive and urinary systems and musculoskeletal system.
The physician interviews the patient and identifies any complaints. Information about illnesses, injuries and operations is important: some of these may have a negative impact on fertility, worsen the prognosis after conception, and cause complications. Hereditary diseases are also important: not only in the spouses, but also in their close relatives.
Another aspect is environmental factors (living in an area with contaminated soil, water, radiation), working conditions (radiation, chemical agents), bad habits. Household conditions, lifestyle and dietary habits must also be reviewed.
List of tests before conception for women
The gynecologist asks about the start of your periods, their duration and other features of your menstrual cycle, number of pregnancies in the past and their outcome. She inquires about the contraceptive methods the woman has used and their effectiveness. Gynecological diseases and terminations of pregnancy affect fertility – you should also tell your doctor about them. In the next step, the gynecologist will refer the patient to a diagnostic test.
The expectant mother must undergo the following tests when planning a pregnancy:
- for infections – viral hepatitis, HIV, syphilis;
- General blood and urine tests – they will help to assess your health in a complex, to detect inflammatory processes, metabolic disorders;
- biochemical analysis and determination of glucose levels – the result shows the work of the liver, kidneys, pancreas, gallbladder and the state of metabolism;
- haemostasiogram is needed to assess the clotting system;
- hormones – TSH, T4, estradiol, progesterone, prolactin, follicle-stimulating and luteinising hormones, testosterone, DHEA-c;
- Blood type and Rh factor – if a girl is Rh negative the Rh factor of her partner should be determined so that measures can be taken to prevent Rh conflict in the baby;
- Antibodies to rubella, measles and chickenpox, if no vaccination is available.
An ultrasound scan of the pelvic organs is necessary. This is done in the second half of the menstrual cycle on around day 19 to 21, in order to find out whether or not ovulation has taken place. During the examination, the doctor assesses the condition of the reproductive organs and identifies any abnormalities – myoma, endometriosis, polyps, cysts, adhesions, bicornuate uterus or uterine curvature.
An ultrasound scan of the mammary glands is carried out on days 5-11 of the cycle. A mammography is recommended for women over 35 years of age.
- examination with a speculum and two-handed swabbing;
- determination of the acidity in the genital tract;
- microscopic examination for cell counts, Candida fungi;
- examination for sexually transmitted infections (STI) – chlamydia, gonorrhoea, mycoplasmosis, trichomoniasis;
- Cervical smear cytology for human papillomavirus.
List of tests before conception for men
A man is referred for tests before conception by a urologist andrologist. During the first consultation, the doctor conducts an interview, finds out about any diseases, injuries, chronic diseases, asks about medications that the patient takes regularly, such as antihypertensives.
Then the doctor examines the external genitals and determines their shape, size and structure. Performs a rectal examination of the prostate and collects a glandular secretion. Prostate secretion is then sent for laboratory examination for diagnosis of inflammation through microscopy and culture on media.
He is also examined by a blood test and a urine test, which give an indication of the general condition of the organism. An infection test is also prescribed: a scraping of the mucosa of the urethra to detect chlamydia, trichomonads, gonococci and other pathogens.
Ultrasound scans of the abdomen, scrotum and prostate can help detect organic pathologies that interfere with the normal functioning of the genitals: constrictions, cysts, tissue overgrowths.
A spermogram is the examination of ejaculate during which a specialist will determine:
the state of the sperm – their concentration, number, motility, structure, percentage of abnormal cells;
The functioning of the prostate gland.
For 3 – 4 days before conducting a spermogram future father must not drink alcohol and energy drinks, medications. Food should be unleavened. Prohibited intense sports, as well as hypothermia, overheating, stress. To obtain a reliable result, sexual abstinence is recommended.
A test for the hormone testosterone is prescribed for a man. If its content is lower than normal, it may cause infertility, which requires a serious correction.
Additional tests when planning a pregnancy
When parents-to-be are over 40 years old, a geneticist should be consulted to determine the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in their unborn child. This specialist should also be visited if there are children with genetic abnormalities in the family or close relatives.
Additional tests during pregnancy planning include determining serum iron levels and other blood values. The test is intended for patients at risk of iron deficiency. A correction is necessary before pregnancy, as abnormalities can cause abortion or impair the development of the foetus during pregnancy.
Advice before conception
In addition to tests when planning a pregnancy, it is important to review the lifestyle and diet, which will help to improve overall health. It is recommended to increase the share of fruit, vegetables, herbs and berries in the menu. Alcohol and smoking should be avoided. Do not take any medicines without medical advice. Start taking a multivitamin, folic acid supplement 3 months before your due date.
Preventive treatment against infectious diseases should also be recommended: vaccinations, avoid public places.
These recommendations apply to both men and women: after all, both parents pass on their genetic material. It is therefore important that they are as healthy as possible.
Some may say that tests when planning a pregnancy are an unnecessary procedure. But in the developed world, preconception preparation is common. Parents-to-be are keen to ensure that conception occurs as soon as possible, preferably in a natural way, pregnancy proceeds without complications and delivery is easy. This is not possible if there are any health problems.
Timely screening, correction of irregularities in preparation for conception – the key to good health of the parents, and thus a happy pregnancy and good health in the baby. Do not neglect these options.