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Information for Health Professionals

A man and woman doctor folding arms

Preconception health refers to the health of women and men during their reproductive years. It focuses on steps that women, men, and health professionals can take to reduce risks, promote healthy lifestyles, and increase readiness for pregnancy. Although preconception health care emphasizes preparing for pregnancy, all women and men of reproductive age can benefit, whether or not they plan to have a baby one day.

Evidence-Based Effectiveness

There is evidence that many preconception interventions reduce the risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes that include birth defects, fetal loss, low birthweight, and preterm delivery. The challenge for health professionals is to reach women and men with these interventions at the time they will be most effective in reducing risks.

Such interventions include:

  • Managing medical conditions (such as diabetes, obesity, phenylketonuria, sexually transmitted infections, hypothyroidism, seizure disorders, and HIV).
  • Counseling women to avoid certain risks (such as alcohol consumption, smoking, prescription and over-the-counter teratogenic drug use, excess vitamin intake, undernutrition, and exposure to toxic substances).
  • Counseling women to engage in healthy behaviors (such as reproductive life planning, folic acid consumption, and proper nutrition).
  • Counseling women about the availability of vaccines to protect their infants from the consequences of infections that affect the mother (such as rubella, varicella, and hepatitis B).
  • Counseling men to avoid certain risks (such as tobacco use and exposure to toxic substances).
  • Counseling men to engage in healthy behaviors (such as reproductive life planning, proper nutrition, and healthy weight maintenance).

Preconception Care: Timing is Key

The fetus is vulnerable to developing certain problems 17–56 days after conception. Prenatal health care, which usually begins in weeks 11 or 12 of pregnancy, may be too late to prevent these problems. This is particularly true in the case of certain prescription drugs that are known to cause birth defects and hazardous substances in the workplace and home.

What You Can Do

As a health professional, you have an important role in preconception health and health care. Health professionals can support the three goals of preconception care by:

  • Screening for risks.
  • Recommending interventions to address identified risks.
  • Promoting health and providing education.

To learn more about preconception care and how you can make it part of your medical practice, click on the following links:

Clinical Content for Women
Find information about the clinical content of preconception care for women, including information on screening, interventions, and health promotion.

Clinical Content for Men
Find information about the clinical content of preconception care for men, including information on screening, interventions, and health promotion.

Recommendations
Read about the 10 preconception care recommendations.

Reproductive Life Plan Tool
Use the reproductive life plan tool to obtain a printable set of questions designed for you (as a health professional) to use with your patients.

Environmental Scan
Compilation of tools with an existing evidence base, including both screening instruments and brief interventions.

Articles
Read important articles on preconception health and health care.

Resource Center
The Preconception Health and Health Care Resource Center is a comprehensive web directory of hyperlinks to tools and resources designed to advance the health of men and women of reproductive age.

Show Your Love Campaign
Show Your Love is a national campaign designed to improve the health of women and babies by promoting preconception health and healthcare. Buttons, posters, videos, and other resources are now available to help you promote preconception health to women in your communities.

 

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