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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Genuis

What is preconception care?

Updated: May 14, 2021

Preconception care (PCC) is the care of women and their partners in the period of time before conception. It seeks to educate and empower couples to make choices that will optimize their health and the health of their future children.

When a woman is pregnant, her developing child is vulnerable to almost everything in her environment - the foods she eats, the air she breathes, the products she uses on her skin and in her home, whether or not she smokes cigarettes or uses illicit drugs etc. In many cases, these exposures will influence her child's development in the womb and some may have a lasting impact on her child's lifelong health.

Today, it is well recognized that exposure to cigarettes, alcohol and illicit drugs can affect fetal development during pregnancy. We routinely advise women to carefully avoid these exposures in order to protect their baby.

But that wasn't always the case.

When research exposing the danger of cigarette smoking, for example, began to be published, it was ignored at first. Smoking, at times, was even encouraged throughout pregnancy to help curb a women's appetite so she didn't gain "too much weight" (10-15lbs was widely thought to be appropriate weight gain at the time!). It took decades, from the time research began to be published until it was widely accepted and women were counselled to avoid smoking! Fortunately nowadays, women who are pregnant take great care to avoid cigarettes, along with alcohol and other drugs. But now there are numerous other exposures we are beginning to become more and more aware of that warrant caution.

Over the last few decades, it it has been found that there are a number of other environmental factors that can have similar, devastating effects.

For example, an article in a leading medical journal, found that women who were exposed to organic solvents (chemicals such as benzene, xylene, toluene etc. often found in the workplace of healthcare and industry workers ) had a 13-fold increase in the incidence of birth defects and malformations. Another article by a renowned author in the U.K. found that women living near industry during their pregnancy (i.e. oil refineries, car factories, paint makers, railways, cement makers etc.) accounted for the majority of the excess cases of childhood cancer in their study. Moreover, a recent paper published in a major psychiatry journal found that many cases of autism are the result of adverse environmental exposures. Based on this new, scientific information, it appears as though some, perhaps many, of these major conditions can be minimized if there is sufficient awareness, and appropriate measures are taken to optimize a woman’s environment.

The information coming out is new. And just as with cigarette smoking, it may take time before it comes widely implemented. We believe a precautionary approach is critical for curtailing increasing rates of childhood chronic disease.

If you are planning to try and conceive anytime in the next 1-2 years, preconception care is right for you - right now. Some of the suggested changes can take time to enact, so it is best to learn the information now and take the time that you need to prepare your body for pregnancy. If we can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out -


Khattak, S., K-Moghtader, G., Mcmartin, K., Barrera, M., Kennedy, D., & Koren, G. (1999). Pregnancy Outcome Following Gestational Exposure to Organic Solvents. Jama, 281(12), 1106. doi:10.1001/jama.281.12.1106

Knox, E. G., & Gilman, E. A. (1997). Hazard proximities of childhood cancers in Great Britain from 1953-80. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 51(2), 151-159. doi:10.1136/jech.51.2.151

Knox, E. G. (2005). Childhood cancers and atmospheric carcinogens. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 59(2), 101-105. doi:10.1136/jech.2004.021675

Rossignol, D. A., Genuis, S. J., & Frye, R. E. (2014). Environmental toxicants and autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Translational Psychiatry, 4(2). doi:10.1038/tp.2014.4

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