As we approach the peak of the holiday season, last minute shopping and gift giving are on many people’s minds. People are rushing out at the last minute to pick up the latest toy or electronic device (or everyone’s favorite thing to receive—socks!). Whether your friends and loved ones are easy or hard to buy for, there is one thing that everyone would be thrilled to receive: a lifetime of good health.
You can’t buy such a gift outright, or at least I’ve never seen it on Amazon. There are many factors that go into someone’s health and well-being. Some of these factors you can control with diet, exercise, and medication. Others are harder to predict or plan for, such as accidents or disease. While you can’t purchase this gift for yourself or for another person, there are smaller, subtler gifts that—while not guaranteeing a healthy life—can have a powerful and positive impact.
If the best gift you can give someone is a healthy life, it makes sense that you would want to give it to your children. Evolving perspectives in family planning encourage preparing for a child before conception and include improving your own health, making sure your finances are in order, and outlining the responsibilities you and your partner will have once your child is born. These are all things—small but powerful gifts to your future child—that couples can use to plan for the future.
Screening for genetic conditions has also become an important part of preconception planning. With the recent reduction in the cost of sequencing the human genome, genetic tests have become widely available to determine if you are a carrier for a genetic condition. If you could determine your risk of passing a genetic condition on to your children, wouldn’t you try and plan to minimize that risk as much as you could or prepare for the possible outcome?
The purpose of genetic screening isn’t to scare you into not having a child, but rather to inform you about what your options are. With a screening report in hand, you can plan whether or not you should pursue natural conception, in-vitro fertilization (IVF), or another option. It also gives you the chance to build a support network of family, friends, and health care professionals to help you manage any risks .
This holiday season, if you are considering starting or adding to your family, consider giving your future child the best gift that you can by being prepared for their arrival. It may seem like this gift is small, but the impact could last a lifetime.
To download a preconception checklist to help with planning for a pregnancy, please click the link below.