Preconception care entails the various forms of care given to a person before the initiation of pregnancy. The term preconception care is majorly used for females but it can also be applied to males because of the need for proper care for good reproductive outcome for example, early detection and treatment of various fertility issues which are common in male can be achieved if proper attention is given to the care of the male gender before the initiation of copulation.
Preconception care is majorly more pronounced during the adolescent phase of transition although; it can be traced as far back as the time of infancy. It emphasizes the need for proper vaccination (e.g. tetanus vaccine for females of childbearing age), adequate nutrition, safe and healthy lifestyle practices, good health care seeking behaviour, sexuality and reproductive health education and appropriate social skill development by young people.
Reasons for emphasizing preconception care at the adolescent phase.
1. The health status and lifestyle during adolescent phase has an impact on the health in adulthood, and even on the next generation
2. Risky sexual behaviours, physical inactivity, poor diets, alcohol and other substance use, poor sleeping habits etc. most times begin during adolescent phase thus, making this a critical stage of life.
3. Unhealthy diet such as the consumption of high calorie, high fat and high sodium content diet such as soft drinks, ready to eat snacks and fast foods is common among young people in both urban and rural settings. Inadequate consumption of vegetables and fruits are also common at this phase of human development.
All these have the potential for causing gastro-intestinal problems, metabolic disorder, pulmonary, orthopaedic as well as psycho social problems which can persist through life time.
Preconception care recommendations
1. The World Health Organization recommends the administration of vaccines such as: Tetanus (booster), Human papillomavirus HPV(for 9-14 years old girls), Rubella (for adolescent and pregnant women not previously vaccinated), Hepatitis B (for high risk group), Pertussis (for high risk group) etc. at the preconception period.
2. Consumption of fruits and vegetables
3. Moderate physical exercise to aid metabolism and guide against obesity and other problems associated with inactivity.
4. Discuss your health problems / challenges with health care professionals for appropriate guidance.
The 3- Dimensional Importance of Preconception care
Preconception care does not only benefit the individual alone but serves a three dimensional importance
1. The now of young people: Preconception care promotes positive health behaviours and prevents the adoption of risky behaviours/habits that can hinder proper growth and development.
2. The future of young people: The establishment and adoption of a healthy lifestyle before adulthood phase of human development can help to build a healthy behaviour or lifestyle and reduce death, illnesses, injury etc. that might have resulted from such risky behaviour.
3. The next generation: The wellbeing and prevention of risk factors and burdens can help protect the young people’s offspring.
Protect your health, for the now, future and your next generation
Abraham Tanimowo is a child development and family studies specialist. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the Federal university of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB). He is presently undergoing a postgraduate study in Child and Adolescent Health at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria with the aim of obtaining a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. He also has professional certification in project management as well as in health safety and environment
He is a young, smart and strategic individual with a great passion for public health and family life research with a special focus on the health, education and social well-being of children, adolescents and mothers.