preconception counselingA growing trend among couples in India hoping to start a family is preconception counseling, which helps identify any underlying concerns that may hinder conception or the birth of a healthy baby. Once a potential problem is identified, the couple is guided through the therapies or lifestyle changes that are more conducive to a healthy pregnancy.

Traditionally, couples don’t seek guidance until attempts at pregnancy fail or complications of pregnancy arise. Medical experts suggest much time and heartbreak could be spared with pre-conception counseling, as 15 to 20 percent of the pregnancies they see are complicated by lifestyle choices.

Dr. Richa Jagtap sees many patients after six months or a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive. Jagtap says that’s too long to wait in today’s “delayed” world, where marriage is delayed longer than in previous generations and, as a result, so is starting a family. Jagtap is director of Nova IVF Fertility in Mumbai, where a growing number of young urban couples go to work through fertility issues.

Another advocate of preconception counseling, Dr. Chetna Joshi of Gurgaon’s Columbia Asia Hospital, recommends counseling three to six months before a couple’s first attempts at conception. Counseling often begins with a course of folic acid supplements for the mother, a determination of any risk factors such as heart disease or diabetes, weight loss if needed, and sperm tests.

Additional counseling measures might include development of a hormonal profile and tests for endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). The woman is tested for rubella, thyroid disorder, thalessemia, and her blood sugar and hemoglobin counts recorded. In some cases, the couple is tested for hepatitis B and C and for HIV.

Any medical conditions are addressed but so is a couple’s lifestyle since some habits that seem harmless and unrelated can jeopardize a healthy pregnancy. Anti-acne medications, especially those that contain isotretinoin can cause miscarriage if taken orally or topically. Preconception counsellors recommend the use of these pimple creams end several months before planning to conceive. The same recommendation to stop is given to women using vitamin A topical applications.

A woman’s fertility declines rapidly between ages 35 and 37, making the biological clock tick more urgently. Since age is such an important factor in a woman’s fertility, preconception counselors suggest seeking guidance any time a couple tries unsuccessfully for two years when the woman is under age 30. After that, they recommend seeking help when just six months of trying results in no pregnancy.

Stress is another lifestyle concern that can hinder a pregnancy. Preconception counseling addresses the couple’s stress level and helps to ease confusion and the sense of helplessness by teaching coping skills and evaluating a woman’s cycle to determine the best time for conception.

Source: Rahmen, Azera Parveen. "Pregnancy Trend: Women Game for Pre-Conception Counselling." Parenting. 23 Sept 2013. Web. 4 Oct 2013.