Preconception care for African women



African women should have access to and be offered preconception care.



What is preconception care?

This is about the optimization of a woman’s health or knowledge for best outcome ever before she plans or conceives a pregnancy.

All health workers (not only midwives and obstetric doctors) who care for African women in the reproductive age group owe a duty to consider the possible effect of pregnancy on women they care for. Towards this end, African women attending care for whatever reason should be asked if there is a possibility of a pregnancy in the near future.

If pregnancy is not desired, appropriate counselling and advice on contraception may be offered.


Steps to take during preconception care

If an African woman is considering pregnancy, the following considerations will assist in preparing her in terms of her own health and that of the baby that will be conceived:

  • Enquire about any pre-existing medical conditions, controlled or uncontrolled.
  • Discuss and offer medication needed as treatment for such conditions.
  • Enquire about past gynecological and obstetric history as applicable.
  • Enquire and discuss family history and genetic risks.
  • Discuss nutritional issues, e.g. undernutrition or obesity.
  • Discuss and encourage update in immunizations (for example against Rubella).
  • Enquire and discuss about tobacco, alcohol and other recreational drug use.
  • Enquire and discuss about possible occupational and environmental exposures.
  • Enquire and discuss social, economic and family issues including possibility of violence and/or abuse in the home.
  • Enquire and discuss about mental health issues.

All health workers who look after African women in the reproductive age must assist those who are considering pregnancy to optimize their health and knowledge appropriately.


Adapted from: Guidelines to Maternity Care in South Africa, 2007. 



Updated: November 2, 2022






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