Preconception care is the provision of biomedical, behavioral and social health interventions to women and couples before conception occurs.
It aims at improving their health status, and reducing behaviors and individual and environmental factors that contribute to poor maternal and child health outcomes. Its ultimate aim is to improve maternal and child health, in both the short and long term.
Opportunities to prevent and control diseases occur at multiple stages of life; strong public health programmes that use a life-course perspective from infancy through childhood and adolescence to adulthood are needed. Preconception care contributes to these efforts.
Even if preconception care aims primarily at improving maternal and child health, it brings health benefits to the adolescents, women and men, irrespective of their plans to become parents.
- 4 out of 10 women report that their pregnancies are unplanned. As a result, essential health interventions provided once a woman and her partner decide to have a child will be too late in 40% of pregnancies.
- Maternal under nutrition and iron-deficiency anaemia increase the risk of maternal death, accounting for at least 20% of maternal mortality worldwide.
- In 2010, 58 000 newborn babies died from neonatal tetanus .
- Female genital mutilation increases the risk of neonatal death (including stillbirths) by 15% to 55%.
- Perinatal deaths are 50% higher among children born to mothers under 20 years of age compared to mothers aged 20–29 years.
- Up to 35% of pregnancies among women with untreated gonococcal infections result in low birth weight infants and premature deliveries, and up to 10% result in perinatal death.
- In the absence of interventions, rates of HIV transmission from mother to child are between 15 and 45%.
- Violence against girls and women results in adverse physical, psychological and reproductive consequences, as well as increased risk for premature delivery and low-birth-weight infants.
- Women with epilepsy are at increased risk of having babies with congenital anomalies (both epilepsy and the medications given for its control may have adverse effects on the baby).
- Estimates indicate that eliminating smoking before or during pregnancy could avoid 5–7% of preterm related deaths and 23–24% of cases of sudden infant death syndrome.