Ellen Hearty, MD, of Mission Women’s Care, answers questions about planning for pregnancy and contraceptive choices.
Q: What is preconception care?
A: Any time a woman is planning a pregnancy, she should make an appointment with her primary care provider or OB/GYN for a preconception visit. The goal of this visit is to make sure she’s entering pregnancy in an optimal state of health. During this visit, the provider will review her medical history and identify any medical problems.
The goal is to make sure that medical problems such as high blood pressure and diabetes are well controlled prior to conception. It also allows for the opportunity to make sure that any medications she’s using are safe in pregnancy. If necessary, the provider can also perform a Pap smear or administer any vaccinations to make sure her preventative care is up to date. A preconception appointment also provides the opportunity to educate regarding the importance of healthy diet and exercise habits as well as to screen for tobacco, alcohol and drug use, and encourage cessation. Finally, if she has not yet started a prenatal vitamin with folic acid, the provider can prescribe one to reduce the risk of birth defects.
Q: What method of contraception is best?
A: There are many contraceptive choices available to women. The goal is to find a safe option that will be effective for pregnancy prevention that also lacks bothersome side effects. Sometimes, the side effects of the contraceptive can even be beneficial. For example, some contraceptive pills improve acne, so it may be able to clear the patient’s skin while also preventing pregnancy.
Many contraceptive options improve symptoms associated with menstrual cycles, so it decreases pain and bleeding while providing pregnancy prevention. The goal is to match the most effective and safest method of contraception with the woman’s preferences.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Hearty, call (828) 659-3621.