Pre-conception counseling involves meeting with a doctor (typically an obstetrician or gynecologist) prior to becoming pregnant. If a woman or couple are planning to have a child, experts suggest initiating this sort of counseling approximately three to six months prior to attempting conception. This allows enough time for mental and physical preparation and to identify and treat any underlying problems.
These counseling sessions primarily exist to identify any undetected illnesses or risk factors that could cause problems for both the mother and the fetus. Risk factors may include smoking, alcohol consumption or certain prescription or recreational drugs that can interfere with the fetus's growth and development. Potential obstacles are addressed in questionnaires about the woman's family history and current lifestyle. They include questions about the woman's health, prior pregnancies, medical conditions and genetic background.
Laboratory tests such as blood work and urinalysis can identify other problems, such as anemia or a kidney infection, of which the woman may have been unaware. Other tests may include pelvic examination, screenings for sexually transmitted infections, and a mental health assessment.
After the counseling is completed, the doctor will discuss the results and any recommendations for lifestyle changes to allow for the greatest level of safety and success in conception and fetal development.