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The One Prenatal Appointment You Should Never Skip

Doctor talking to patient about mammogram results

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When you're pregnant, your calendar quickly fills up with doctor's appointments, ultrasounds and more. But too many women skip what could be the most important pregnancy checkup of all: the one before you ever get pregnant.

Preconception Counseling, and Why It Matters

Not everyone's path to pregnancy is straightforward. Preconception counseling with a certified nurse midwife (CNM) can optimize outcomes with planning and education.

Preconception counseling is best scheduled at least three months before you start trying to get pregnant. During your counseling session, you and your CNM will take stock of your current health and review your personal and family medical history. You'll also learn how to track your cycle, time intercourse for peak fertility and other pregnancy life hacks.

The weeks immediately after conception are some of the most critical in a pregnancy. Preconception counseling helps you make the most of them in a variety of ways:

It Can Do a Lot of the Work of Your Annual Physical Exam

If you're planning to have children and still need to get your yearly checkup, preconception counseling might save you a doctor's visit. Many of the preventive tests and screenings you'd get during your physical are also part of preconception counseling.

Beyond administering your physical exam, your CNM will make sure that you're up to date on immunizations, lab work, Pap smears and mammograms. They might also recommend possible carrier screenings (a type of test that assesses your chances of having a child with a genetic disorder) to rule out any hereditary conditions. If any preventive screenings are needed before conception, your CNM will help you line them up.

All in all, preconception counseling helps ensure that your body is at its healthiest when it finally enters pregnancy.

It Can Improve Your Odds of Success

One of the best benefits of counseling from a CNM is you gain a better understanding of your own body and its menstrual cycle. This gives you the knowledge you need to optimize your chances of successful conception. In the process, you and your CNM can address any menstrual irregularities that might get in the way. You might also receive recommendations for prenatal vitamins, diet/nutrition and exercise.

It Builds a Relationship on Trust

CNMs like me take pride in being both an educator and health provider. We strive to be your close partner all the way through delivery of your baby. At every step in your journey, we can help you manage your risk factors, schedule tests and checkups as needed, and even help you design a birth plan. And, of course, we can be there to deliver your baby.

So it's important that you trust your midwife completely. That trust begins with your first meeting. Treat it like a sort of job interview and ask us all your toughest questions.

It Leaves You Free to Enjoy Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy can be disorienting and stressful, even if you've been through it before. Your body goes through so many major changes, both inside and out. And there are always unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Education empowers you. It alleviates your stress and anxiety so that you're free to savor the joys of growing a new life inside you. Hearing a heartbeat for the first time. The first kick. Nesting (so much nesting).

By removing the unknowns, you'll feel ready for anything. And you'll be an active participant in your pregnancy and your child's birth instead of finding yourself at the mercy of other decision-makers.

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