Preparing for pregnancy: 5 health and family considerations

Preparation can help set the stage for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Dr. Jacqueline S. Kates

Thinking about having a baby? A little preparation goes a long way in setting the stage for a healthy pregnancy. Before you start trying to conceive, it’s a good idea to talk to your women’s health provider about your health and risk factors.

Consider these five key health questions:

  1. Are you in good general health? Levels of fitness, nutrition and stress can affect fertility and a healthy pregnancy. It’s worth taking time to address these issues in advance, making lifestyle changes such as exercising, following a healthy diet rich in folic acid and other important nutrients, and catching up on missed immunizations.
  2. Do you have any pre-existing conditions that may lead to a complicated pregnancy? Conditions like asthma, depression/anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure and others can affect pregnancy. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get pregnant, but we can help you have a plan in place before conception for how best to manage these conditions during pregnancy.
  3. What unhealthy habits need to be kicked? Smoking and tobacco use, alcohol consumption and drug use should be stopped before trying to get pregnant. In addition to affecting the fertility of both men and women, these things have a serious impact on a developing pregnancy. It may be challenging to quit once you’re pregnant, so it’s best to do it in advance. Talk to us for support and strategies.
  4. What prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements are you taking? Again, some medications can affect fertility, so we may need to make changes before you start trying to conceive. Also, some medications and supplements can be harmful during pregnancy, so we’ll work with you to either wean you off medications or transition you to something else.
  5. Are there any red flags in your family medical history? Certain genetic conditions run in families. We can test for some conditions in advance so you’ll know your risk level before getting pregnant, or develop a plan for testing during pregnancy.

In addition to health issues, consider big picture questions as well. Babies are amazing, and they can also be all-consuming, especially in the early years. Ask yourself the hard questions. Are you ready to make lifestyle changes necessary to be a parent? Are you financially able to care for a child? Do you have the support you need from a partner or others? What impact do you expect a child to have on your home life, career and family?

When you are ready to start trying to conceive, call us for an appointment. We’ll work with you to a personalized care plan.

Choosing the birth control method that’s right for you

Anne Vaillant, CNM, says there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a birth control method.
Anne Vaillant, CNM, says there are a number of factors to consider when choosing a birth control method.

Factors to consider when weighing your options

Anne Vaillant, CNM

A generation ago, birth control options were pretty limited: condoms, the pill, and the rhythm method (abstaining from sex when you are at your most fertile). Today, there are a wide variety of options, but it’s important to find the one that will work the best for you and your lifestyle.

Consider This

Effectiveness: When estimating the effectiveness of the various forms of birth control, it’s important to remember that they are calculated assuming you are using the method as instructed. For the pill, this means you must take it every day at about the same time to maximize its effectiveness. Start skipping days or taking it erratically, and its effectiveness decreases. Other options require diligence once a week or once a month. Some require regular trips to your health care provider. This requires a level of commitment.

On the other hand, options like a condom allow you to only think about birth control when you really need it—right before sex—but because condoms can tear or come off, you may be sacrificing effectiveness for convenience.

Price: Depending on your insurance, some birth control options are more affordable than others. Many options require prescriptions, while some are available over-the-counter.

Convenience: Some methods of birth control, like implants, are effective for up to three years, and even longer with IUDs. Once you have them, you don’t have think about birth control for significant periods of time. However, if you aren’t interested in a long-term option, you may be more willing to put up with the inconvenience of, for example, getting the shot every three months.

“Ick” Factor: Some women are more squeamish than others. If you will feel uncomfortable inserting something far up in your vagina, options like the ring may not be for you. Also, some require the addition of a spermicide before insertion, which some women find messy.

Allergies/Sensitivities: If you have any allergies or sensitivities, it’s important to know what each birth control option contains. Latex allergies may rule out some of the most common type of condoms (they are available in latex-free varieties). Some women have reactions to spermicide; others find the patch gives them a rash. If you are prone to urinary tract infections, the diaphragm may increase your risk for more.

Side Effects: Many forms of birth control (such as the pill, patch and ring) contain hormones—typically estrogen and progestin—that can result in a range of side effects, including some that are short-term and some that aren’t. Some women tolerate progesterone better than estrogen, so an option like the injection, which contains progestin only, may be a better choice.

Side effects aren’t all bad; certain forms of birth control, like the pill, can reduce the frequency, heaviness and cramps of your period.

At A Glance

The chart below provides a brief synopsis of the most common types of birth control, comparing them based on the factors described above.

Method Effectiveness Frequency Prescription Do-It-Yourself Estrogen
IUD/Hormonal 99%+ 5-7 years Yes No Yes
Implant 99%+ Every 3 years Yes No No
Vasectomy 99%+ Once/ permanent Surgery No No
IUD/Copper 99% 10-12 years Yes No No
Shot 94-98% Quarterly Yes No No
Pill 92-99% Daily Yes Yes Yes
Patch 92% Weekly Yes Yes Yes
Ring 92% Monthly Yes Yes Yes
Diaphragm (w/spermicide) 88% Every time you have sex (within 6 hours) Yes Yes No
Male Condom 82% Every time you have sex No Yes No
Cervical Cap (w/spermicide) 80% Every time you have sex (within 48 hours) Yes Yes No
Female Condom 79% Every time you have sex No Yes No
Sponge (w/spermicide) 76-88% Every time you have sex (within 24 hours) No Yes No
Rhythm Method (or withdrawal) 76-78% Every time you have sex No Yes No

 

Talk to Your Healthcare Provider

Your OB/GYN or certified nurse-midwife can help you choose the birth control method that’s right for you. Let them know what factors are most important to you, and be honest about any concerns you have.

For example, let your provider know if you want long-term or short-term—or even permanent—protection against pregnancy, as some options are easier to reverse than others. If you also want protection from STDs, condoms are the only option that offers this, but they can be used in conjunction with other birth control options to boost their effectiveness for pregnancy prevention.

Often, short-term side effects resolve in a few months, but if you are experiencing side effects that you find intolerable or concerning, talk to your health care provider about what you are experiencing and discuss other options.

If you need guidance about birth control, schedule an appointment online or call us: 413-562-8016 for our Westfield office or 413-736-9978 for our Springfield office. We’ll be happy to talk with you about your options and find birth control method that’s best for you.

Fertility Facts & Fiction

Dr. Jacqueline Kates
Dr. Jacqueline Kates

What really helps to boost fertility

Dr. Jacqueline Kates, obstetrician/gynecologist

We’ve all heard some of the many “tricks” to help women get pregnant. But what really works?

Both female and male fertility is affected by a wide range of factors, including medical history, current health, age, family history, medications and environmental factors. Some women become pregnant as soon as they start trying, while others take longer or experience difficulties.

Here are a few things that may help:

  • Check your weight. Being overweight or underweight can affect the fertility of both men and women. Talk to your health care provider about your ideal weight, and steps you can take to try to achieve it.
  • Stop smoking. While everyone knows that smoking – including tobacco and marijuana – during pregnancy may be harmful to both mom and baby, many don’t realize it can also affect fertility in both women and men.
  • Learn more. You and your partner should talk candidly with your health providers about your desire to conceive, and any concerns you have. Be honest about your health and your use of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and any medications that might play a role in your fertility or ability to have a healthy pregnancy. Some medications, vaginal lubricants, or exposure to chemicals can decrease fertility in both women and men.

 

Before trying to conceive, talk to your health care provider to address any concerns and discuss how to optimize your health.

Our doctors and nurse-midwives are welcoming new patients in our Springfield and Westfield locations. Book online or call us at (413) 562-8306 for our Westfield office, or (413) 736-9978 for Springfield.