Preconception Health

Posted on January 15, 2007 by Inception Fertility

While many factors leading to female factor infertility are out of a patient's control (genetics, for example), there are several measures patients can take that will help optimize their chances of conception. At the forefront is receiving routine gynecological care. During the preconception phase, it is important that the patient have an up-to-date Pap smear and mammogram. Furthermore, the patient should undergo testing for infectious diseases (Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, syphilis) and immunization status for varicella and rubella and hormones which can affect ovulation (prolactin and TSH). Any fibroids or polyps the patient has should be evaluated to make sure they wouldn't adversely affect the chances of conception. Also, the patient should be taking essential prenatal vitamins as prescribed by her OB/GYN. Certain behavioral factors should also be assessed and, in some instances, eliminated prior to trying to conceive. Smoking and drinking should be eliminated and exercise should be moderated. Incorporating a regular exercise program along with a balanced diet is recommended. The diet should include lean proteins, a colorful variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, combined with a limited intake of processed and fatty foods. Women who are extremely thin or very heavy should seek the help of a nutritional counselor to attain a healthy weight without fad or crash diets. Embarking on a new, strenuous exercise regimen or crash diet just before attempting to become pregnant is not recommended. Medications being taken for preexisting medical conditions should also be evaluated to ensure they won't compromise a pregnancy. If the patient requires a fertility specialist, it is recommended the following tests be performed prior to seeing a specialist. This will streamline the diagnosis process and expedite them on their path to proper treatment. This includes testing of the ovarian hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), Estradiol; a semen analysis (for the male partner) and an HSG (dye study) to assess tubal patency. See more about fertility testing... Age is a critical factor in the outcome of infertility treatment and it is important for patients to be more proactive the older the patient gets. At Pacific Fertility Center (PFC), our guideline for patients is to seek help from a fertility specialist after: 1 year of trying for women less than 35 years of age; 6 months of adequately timed intercourse or inseminations for women ages 35-39; 3-6 months of trying for women over 39. See more about age and fertility... Again, time is of the essence when it comes to getting treatment from a reproductive expert, and, keeping that in mind, there are several tests that we do not encourage patients to take prior to seeing an infertility specialist based on their limited usefulness. They include:

  • Post coital test
  • Sperm penetration assays
  • Endometrial biopsy
  • Serum antisperm antibodies
  • Cervical cultures
  • Laparoscopy
  • Autoimmune factors

    Ultimately, conceiving through assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a team effort involving the patient, OB/GYN, and fertility specialist, with the process beginning several months before the patient steps foot in an IVF clinic. Click here for more information on pregnancy preparation. -- Eldon Schriock, MD

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