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Baby planning: Preconception FAQs

Do I need to see a doctor before trying to conceive?

If you have the luxury of planning your pregnancy, you may want to see the doctor or your nurse (depending on the availability at your doctor's surgery) to discuss any of your concerns. I remember seeing the nurse at my surgery about six months before we started trying. I went to see her simply because I wanted to know when to stop taking the pill and how to time the pregnancy so that I could have a baby in the millenium! This was years ago and the second time around, my visit to the doctor was because I was having problems in conceiving inspite of trying for so long. With time, everything changes - what happened in a quick flash the first time may not be the same next time or vice versa.

You may, however, want to discuss your smear tests (are yours up to date?) and also request the doctor for a blood test to determine your immunity to rubella (if you don't know already) . You can also use this appointment to get a prescription for folic acid although you can even buy some over the counter after having determined the need by talking to your doctor.

It is highly recommended that you see the doctor if you have had problems with previous pregnancies, have a long-standing illness, are over- or under-weight for your height or have any other concerns. A visit to a medical professional is always a good idea.

See also Pre-pregnancy checklist

Are there any risks involved in taking folic acid supplements?

It is always recommended to talk to your doctor before starting any medication, even supplements. Normally there are no side effects with Folic Acid but it is a good idea to keep your doctor in the loop. On the oher hand, if you don't want to take supplements (discuss with your doctor first always), you should definitely make sure that your diet includes certain foods, such as dark, green, leafy vegetables that are high in folic acid. It may be noted that vegetables lose their folic acid to an extent when cooked, which is why folic acid supplements are highly recommended.

Click here for other folic acid sources

What is the best time to get pregnant after a rubella (German measles) injection?

Women are advised to avoid pregnancy for a month after receiving a rubella vaccine. However, if you are pregnant already and if the vaccination is given very early on in pregnancy, the risk to the fetus is very low. However, if the mother-to-be gets rubella during pregnancy, it can lead to some serious complications for the unborn baby. It is very important to determine your immunity to rubella by taking a simple blood test.

See also immunity to rubella

Will conception be difficult because I have painful or heavy periods?

Probably not, but if you have severe symptoms see your doctor to rule out an underlying cause such as fibroids, endometriosis or a pelvic infection.

Will conception be difficult because my periods are infrequent and irregular?

Possibly. Irregularity makes it harder to plan a pregnancy. You may need medical advice to figure out when you ovulate and hence determine your best feritlity window.

What happens if both my partner and I are over 30?

You both are probably in great health and shape but do note that although male fertility is not greatly affected by age, the fertility of women over 35 does gradually decline.

See also Over 35 years and thinking about a baby?

What is a sperm test?

If a couple are having problems conceiving, a sperm test is carried out to determine male partner's fertility. The sperm are examined to see how well they move and how many (if any) abnormal sperm there are. The lower the proportion of healthy sperm, the more difficult it is to get pregnant, and the longer it may take.

When are fertility drugs used?

Fertility drugs are used to assist in regularising the periods when hormonal problems prevent ovulation.

If I take fertility drugs, will I have twins or more?

Not necessarily, although the odds do increase.

What are fraternal twins?

Fraternal twins develop when two eggs are fertilised by two separate sperm. Each twin has its own placenta. These twins may or may not be of the same sex and are not identical to look at.

What are identical twins?

Identical twins develop when the fertilised egg divides into two halves, both producing identical babies. The twins share the same placenta. They are always of the same sex and resemble each other in terms of physical characteristics.

How is the sex of the baby determined?

The sex of your baby is determined by two of the 46 chromosomes that make up its genetic blueprint. The sperm and the egg carry one of these each. An egg has an X chromosome but the sperm has either an X or a Y chromosome. If it is an X-bearing sperm that fertilises the egg, you will have a baby girl; if the sperm carries a Y chromosome, you will have a boy. Therefore, the father determines the baby's gender.

What is genetic counselling?

If there is a history of hereditary diseases, such as haemophilia or cystic fibrosis, in your family, or if you know that you and your partner have incompatible blood types, consider seeing a genetic counsellor for advice before you conceive.

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