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8 questions to ask if you’re planning a pregnancy

A preconception checkup is your chance to make sure you start your journey to parenthood on the right foot

Thinking about having a baby? Congratulations on making such a big decision! Before you start shopping for cribs and strollers, you should schedule a chat with your healthcare provider to make sure you start your journey to parenthood on the right foot. Part of the preparation is making a list of questions to ask an OB-GYN provider before getting pregnant. 

Schedule a preconception checkup

Start out by making an appointment for a consultation with your physician as soon as possible (you can even start with your primary care provider) if you’re ready to begin trying to conceive. In fact, you may want to make this appointment several months before you begin trying to conceive. Usually at this appointment, you’ll discuss your current health and lifestyle, your medical history, your family’s medical history, and even your partner’s health. It should include a comprehensive physical examination and may also include blood, urine, or other screening tests. A preconception checkup is a great opportunity for  dedicated time to talk about how to have a healthy pregnancy. 

8 questions to ask an OB-GYN

Once you have the appointment, it’s time to make a list of questions. Experts always recommend preparing for a doctor’s office in advance. For example, the Cleveland Clinic has put together a lengthy list of questions that can guide you through many kinds of appointments, with questions that focus on important topics such as diagnosis of a medical condition, treatment and surgery.

A preconception appointment has its own unique list of questions to ask a gynecologist. Consider asking the following:

1. When should I stop using birth control?

There are many misconceptions about birth control, and when you should stop using it. Often, women think it will take a while for contraceptives to leave their system so they can become pregnant. Yet, with many oral and barrier contraceptives, you can have a baby almost right away. Some forms of birth control, such as the implant and IUD, need to be removed by your provider. Ask your OB-GYN when is the best time to stop using your particular method.

2. Should I be taking prenatal vitamins?

Your provider will almost certainly answer this question with an emphatic “yes.” If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, you should go ahead and start taking an over-the counter  prenatal vitamin with folic acid now as you don’t know when you’ll actually conceive. Folic acid can help reduce the chances of neural tube defects (problems in the brain and spine). According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should start taking a prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid one month before getting pregnant and continue taking it through at least the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. Some women may need to take even more folic acid, if they’re at elevated risk for having a baby with a neural tube defect.

RELATED: Why pregnant women need to take folic acid

3. Should I undergo any fertility tests?

It might not be a bad idea. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, MD, MPH, a reproductive endocrinologist in San Ramon, California, recommends that women be proactive and get their fertility checked. She uses the mnemonic TUSHY to help women and their partners remember the five basic tests that she recommends: (Fallopian) tubes, uterus, sperm, hormones, and your genetics.  “This will help you figure out if you have a fertility issue before you even start trying,” says Dr. Eyvazzadeh, who also serves as medical advisor for Proov. “Imagine trying to get your car to start for an entire year to take a vacation you were looking forward to your entire life. And then someone says, ‘Well, if you had just checked under the hood, you would have known the engine needs to be fixed.’”

However, it’s important to note: Your insurance may not cover this type of testing unless you meet certain criteria. For example, the ACOG recommends infertility evaluation if you don’t conceive within a year, are older than 35 and don’t conceive within 6 months, are older than 40, or have other risks for fertility.

RELATED: Infertility statistics

4. How can I maximize my chances of getting pregnant?

This is a question on the minds of many women who are ready to get going on having a family, especially if they’re concerned their age may be a factor. Assuming you don’t have any other conditions that might affect your fertility, your provider may advise you to make sure you’re consistently having sex during the right time in your menstrual cycle. If you don’t conceive naturally within a year, your provider may want to discuss further steps, such as fertility treatments. But if you’re 35 or older, your provider may only want to wait six months. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, your fertility does begin to gradually decline in your 30s, especially after age 35. 

RELATED: Ovulation 101

5. How will my gynecological issues affect my pregnancy?

If you have a history of endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or any other gynecological condition, it’s definitely worth discussing. Ask your provider how those conditions might affect your ability to conceive—and your ability to carry a pregnancy to term. Same goes for any issues that you might have experienced with any previous pregnancies and deliveries. If you had a previous pregnancy complicated by pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm labor or anything else, you might need more frequent monitoring or bloodwork, notes Jennie Jarvis Hauschka, MD, an OB-GYN who practices in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

6. How will my other health conditions change during pregnancy?

If you have any health conditions or you take regular medications, discuss how pregnancy might impact your symptoms or treatment with your OB-GYN. That includes both physical and mental health issues. For example, if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or anxiety—your healthcare provider can provide guidance on what to expect. It’s really important to discuss all of the medications you take including prescriptions, over-the-counter treatments, vitamins, and supplements with your provider to see how they impact your ability to conceive or a pregnancy.

“You can talk about how that might affect the pregnancy and optimize the treatment,” says Dr. Hauschka. You should also schedule an appointment with your treating physician—whether that’s your primary care or a mental health specialist.

7. What should I eat…or not eat?

It’s a good idea to think about being as healthy as you can be prior to becoming pregnant. Along those lines, you may be wondering if there are foods and beverages that you should avoid if you’re hoping to get pregnant. In general, experts advise eating a healthy, balanced diet of nutrient-rich foods. You might want to avoid undercooked meat, to reduce the risk of possibly contracting toxoplasmosis, which is an illness caused by the parasite toxoplasma gondii. While you’re on the topic of what’s safe to consume, check in with your provider about what other substances are safe or unsafe during pregnancy so you can best protect yourself and your pregnancy.

8. Do I need to worry about anemia?

Iron-deficient anemia develops when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to deliver oxygen all over your body. It’s very common for pregnant women to develop mild anemia due to the increase in blood volume that comes along with pregnancy, according to the American Society of Hematology. Your provider can advise you about what to do. For example, eating foods that are rich in iron (such as spinach and other dark green leafy veggies) and taking an iron supplement can usually bring your iron levels up to the appropriate levels. But if you already have anemia or had moderate to severe anemia during a previous pregnancy, let your provider know. “If you have pre-existing anemia, you may want to take the prenatal vitamin with iron,” Dr. Hauschka says.

Keep it all in perspective

Ultimately, you can’t control everything about getting pregnant or being pregnant—but you can do your best to prepare. A preconception consultation is a good first step. It’s your chance to get the conversational ball rolling with your provider. And while you’re waiting on your appointment to arrive, you might even add more questions to your list. When in doubt, ask!