November 1997

Media Contacts: Traci Simmons, 404/727-8599, tgsimmo@emory.edu,
Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 - sgoodwi@emory.edu
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 - covnic@emory.edu

Taking time to visit an obstetrician/gynecologist before conceiving is a vital part of preparing for one of the most important events in a woman's life -- giving birth to a healthy baby. Today, more than ever before, medical advances and technology safeguard that miracle.

Just one hundred years ago, women frequently died during childbirth and for mostly unknown reasons many fetuses and infants suffered the same fate. In fact, many women never saw their 40th birthday. In the 1990s, women, even those over the age of 40, are able to conceive and give birth to healthy babies without many of the plaguing fears and doubts of a by-gone era.

"Our society is much more in tune with healthy eating and nutrition and now, more than ever before, we know about the dangers and risks to pregnant women and their babies," says Mary Dolan, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist at The Emory Clinic Perimeter, EMORY HEALTHCARE, and clinical chief for obstetrics/gynecology, Primary Care, The Emory Clinic. "And, women have a variety of options to control -- and thereby choose and plan for -- conception."

Every woman thinking about having a baby, whatever her age, no matter how many children she may have already had, should schedule a pre-conception consultation and medical exam for herself, her partner and her not-yet-conceived child.

Physicians meeting with pre-expectant mothers will review the importance of a woman's health habits and history. A review of a patient's personal and family medical history indicates risks for medical problems that may require special care during pregnancy or diseases that can be transferred to the baby.

Hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disease and fibroid tumors present special concerns, especially among older women.

"Pregnancy should be thought of as lasting 12 months; the three months prior to conception may be as important as the nine months of pregnancy for the healthiest baby possible."

Past and present sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes, an incurable and recurring STD, may affect the pregnancy and should be addressed. Along with the general physical exam and pap smear, patients are checked for immunity to rubella which can cause serious birth defects if contracted during pregnancy. A woman with no immunity should be vaccinated, but she must then wait three months before attempting pregnancy.

"We advise women to be in optimal health before attempting pregnancy," says Dr. Dolan. "In addition, we advise women and their partners to prepare emotionally, as well."

A new aspect to pre-conception consultations is the opportunity for women and their mates to openly discuss the emotional and practical aspects of pregnancy, birth and child-rearing with their doctors. In today's rather complicated world, many doctors see the importance of adding such a discussion to the more routine medical exam.

Future parents should consider how a pregnancy will impact their career goals, lifestyles and finances. These are major areas that are often affected when pregnancy occurs.

Women also need to be clear about the role their mates are prepared to play. "Having a baby is a lifetime commitment," says Dr. Dolan. "Every woman needs to make sure her relationship with her partner will support this decision."


EMORY HEALTHCARE incorporates all of Emory's health services into an integrated whole. It includes The Emory Clinic and its 15 health centers, Emory University Hospital, Crawford Long Hospital of Emory University and Emory-Adventist Hospital at Smyrna.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to hsnews@emory.edu.

Copyright ©Emory University, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
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