An important question at your annual checkup

Whether to have a baby—and when—is one of the most important decisions women face. Not all of us are big planners. And even when we are, things can happen. Birth control can fail, or our choices don’t quite mesh with our goals. About half of all babies are unplanned, and some of us aren’t prepared.

That’s why if you’re a woman of childbearing age, your primary care provider may ask you at your annual exam, “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?”

If the answer is “Yes” or “I’m OK either way,” your provider can help you prepare for a healthy baby. This starts even before you become pregnant, like taking prenatal vitamins that include enough folic acid. This B vitamin helps prevent major birth defects of the brain and spine. Check the vitamin bottle label to make sure your brand includes at least 400 mcg of folic acid.

When you stop birth control to become pregnant, it’s a good time to stop using alcohol and nicotine. That way, the baby isn’t exposed to them before you know you’re pregnant.

If you answer “no” or “I’m not sure” if you’re sked “Would you like to become pregnant in the next year?”, that leads to a whole different talk. Your provider can coach you on options that fit your goals and values.

For those using birth control, there are a lot of choices. Some choices take more daily management, and not all of them work well. Others are long-term and can be reversed. These are more reliable, like implants or an intrauterine device.  

Primary care providers can handle most of your birth control needs and pre-pregnancy health issues. Raising this issue at a well visit is a reality check. It’s a chance to think about how to meet your health and life goals. That’s important for each woman, and each baby.

Pre-pregnancy health and contraception are just some of the women’s health services available to Columbia Pacific CCO members. For more information, just call the number on your Member ID card to learn about your coverage.

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