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Optimising your health before pregnancy

Before you become pregnant, it is important that you have optimal health to improve the chance of conceiving, and subsequently having a healthy pregnancy and smooth birth. Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr Joo Teoh details the care and advice that you can receive in a pre-conception consultation, and some of the common tests that can be performed to ensure you are in the best health to conceive.

19 Mar 2021

Before you become pregnant, it is important that you have optimal health to improve the chance of conceiving, and subsequently having a healthy pregnancy and smooth birth.

Some people opt to visit their GPs or specialist doctor for pre-conception care and counselling before trying to conceive. In the preconception consultation, your doctor will address both you and your partner’s health. You can also receive advice on the best diet, exercise pattern, and lifestyle optimisation, including information on quitting smoking if required.

The personalised tests will differ based on the health status and medical conditions of the mother, her partner and family history. In general, pre-pregnancy blood and urine tests for routine screening may include those listed below but not all of them will be performed initially.

  • Full blood count
  • Blood group and antibody
  • Iron level
  • Vitamin D level
  • Hepatitis B & C
  • Other sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and syphilis
  • Thyroid function
  • Rubella antibody status
  • Chickenpox immunity
  • Heritable genetic carrier screening. This is optional and usually includes cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy and fragile X syndrome. If there are any medical indications, for example family members with medical conditions like thalassaemia, your doctor may request for more specific genetic carrier screens.  

It is advisable for women planning to conceive to take at least one month of folic acid prior to becoming pregnant. The usual dose is 400mcg per day, but some women require a higher dose as determined by their doctor. Some women may also be advised other supplements like vitamin D and iodine. Read more about the vitamins that are recommended for pregnancy.

Your doctor may also recommend an ideal target weight for you before trying to conceive. This optimal weight usually a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 30 and is proven to reduce complications in pregnancy and improve the health of mums and bubs. When trying to conceive, women should stop drinking alcohol, as alcohol is likely to have a detrimental effect on pregnancy, even in the early stages. 

If there are any medical conditions for yourself or the family members, the doctor may make further assessment and work with you to optimise your health before you fall pregnant. This may include treatment of any medical illnesses or stabilising the conditions.  

You can also have a cervical screen done at your preconception check if it is not up to date. 

Women not immune to rubella will be advised to have a Measles Mumps and Rubella booster prior to pregnancy. Your GP will discuss with you the importance of not falling pregnant for a defined period after the immunisation.

Dr Joo Teoh Obstetrician and Gynaecologist

About the Author

Dr Joo Teoh has extensive experience as a Specialist Obstetrician and Gynaecologist in the UK. He is also a UK subspecialist in reproductive medicine and surgery. While in the UK, Dr Teoh was also the chairperson for the national trainees in reproductive medicine and surgery.

Dr Teoh has experience in reproductive medicine biomedical research; his research in reproductive immunology has led to the award of Doctor of Medicine from the University of Glasgow. He has presented internationally, and has won several prizes for his research work. He also has a Master of Science in Clinical Trials from the University of London.

Dr Teoh has a special interest in looking after and delivering obstetrics patients, especially for women who have complicated obstetric histories such as miscarriages or polycystic ovarian syndrome. He prides himself on providing patient-centric care and support throughout treatment or pregnancy, and feels strongly about giving each of his patients the time and attention they require.