Pre-Pregnancy Planning – Maximising Your Health

posted in: Life, Parenting, Pregnancy | 0

by Dr Kath Turner, senior GP – Hunters Hill Medical Practice


Planning a baby is an exciting time for prospective parents. When you are planning on becoming pregnant and during your pregnancy, your GP is able to provide ongoing care and support to help you have a healthy pregnancy and give your baby the best start in life.

When planning a pregnancy there are many things to consider, even if it isn’t your first baby. It is ideal that women and their partners visit their GP around three to six months prior to trying to conceive. This will allow us to discuss changes that can be made to maximise the mother’s health prior to becoming pregnant.

Most healthy fertile couples will become pregnant within 12 months of trying, however, women over the age of 35 years can take up to twice as long to conceive. If you have been trying to become pregnant for 12 months without success, or if you are over 35 years old and have been trying for 6 months without success, you should arrange for a discussion with your GP. We will be able to discuss fertility issues with you, and where necessary, arrange for the next steps to assist you with access to speciality fertility services.


Pre-pregnancy planning with your GP will cover a number of different issues. These include:


Health Check Tests and Visits

We will check your overall health and discuss any prescribed, herbal, or over the counter medicines you are currently using. This is to understand any issues or medications that may have an impact on your, or your baby’s, health. We will also arrange for some blood tests to check if you are immune for Chicken Pox and Rubella, and potentially for other conditions that may affect your baby, for example, Thalassaemia. If needed we can provide these immunisations, or other important vaccines such as the influenza vaccine to help protect you and your baby.

It is important your cervical screening test and breast check are up to date and if not, we can arrange this for you. We can also help check for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which may affect your ability to fall pregnant.

When you come in to see your GP, we will also encourage you to start thinking about what sort of antenatal care you might like.  You should check your health insurance policy to ensure appropriate coverage.

Health Issues and Family Medical History

If you have a family history of genetic disorders, if you are over 35 years old, or if you have previously had a child with a genetic disorder, you are at a higher risk of genetic issues. Discussing your history with your GP will enable us to discuss your options around genetic testing and counselling. Technology has progressed and we are now able to offer screening tests to check if you are a carrier for specific diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis (CF), Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) and Fragile X Syndrome (FXS).

Nutrition and Supplements

For the good health of both you and your future baby it’s important to have a balanced and nutritious diet. Eating more healthy foods will help with your chances of conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Freshly prepared, low fat, high fibre food options are best during pregnancy. Food safety in pregnancy and when trying to conceive is important and there are excellent resources to be found at Pregnancy | NSW Food Authority

We recommend you commence on a folate and iodine supplement, preferably three months before you start trying to fall pregnant.

  • Folic Acid – Taking folic acid has been proven to reduce the risk of a baby being born with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. Your GP will advise you on the right folic acid dosage for you.
  • Iodine – Iodine is an essential requirement for thyroid hormone production, which, in turn is vital for your developing baby’s brain and nervous system. Many Australian women don’t obtain enough iodine from their diet. You should discuss with your GP the right amount of iodine for you during your pregnancy.

There are many different supplements on the market and we strongly encourage you to talk to your GP about what may be the right one/s for you.


If you don’t have a regular exercise regime, it is a good idea to set this in progress before becoming pregnant and then continue throughout your pregnancy. Exercise is great for your overall wellbeing, helps maintain a healthy weight and is also fabulous for your mood. Ideal exercises throughout pregnancy include walking and swimming. It is best to avoid intense exercise and becoming too hot whilst pregnant.

There are other important lifestyle modifications you can make that will improve your chances of conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Quitting smoking (ideally three months prior to conception), limiting your alcohol intake (there is no known safe level of alcohol in pregnancy), reducing your caffeine intake and avoiding illicit drugs.


Planning pregnancy seems complicated and perhaps you are overwhelmed after reading all this? There is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there and remember your GP is a wonderful resource for you and will assist with any concerns you (or your partner) may have.


Dr Kath Turner is a senior GP from Hunters Hill Medical Practice. She is an accredited GP-Shared care provider for RNSH and RPAH Antenatal Clinics. Hunters Hill Medical Practice has multiple GPs that can assist you with your pregnancy needs.