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Body Prep

A little while ago I went to my obgyn for a preconception checkup. I wanted to let him know I went off the pill, and make sure everything was in working order, that I didn't have any diseases, and check that I was up to date on my vaccinations. Oh, and I wanted to get his recommendation on a daily multivitamin with enough folic acid.

Simple. In fact, this is what we recommend in Parenting magazine all the time (because experts have recommended it to us): Go to your doctor for a preconception checkup to make sure you're healthy before you start trying to get pregnant.

Apparently, some doctors haven't gotten this memo.

My obgyn could not have been more nonchalant, as though it was kind of unnecessary for me to come in for this reason. He basically said everything was fine, I had nothing to worry about, that I should feel free to knock myself out having sex, that I should avoid high-mercury fish (he gave me a pamphlet on that), and that this was a great time in my life (true).

"But I'm pretty sure I'm not immune to chicken pox," I said, half naked on the exam table. (I got the varicella vaccine, which protects against chicken pox, when it first came out in 1995 because I never had chicken pox as a kid. And I KNOW from my health reporting that immunity from the shot wears off after several years, so a booster shot is required).

"Don't worry. We can deal with that later. Just come back in to see me when you're pregnant," he said.

Um. No, I thought. No way was I going to expose myself to a vaccine that contains a live virus of chicken pox WHILE pregnant, and I certainly wasn't going to risk getting chicken pox while pregnant, since it can be incredibly dangerous for the baby.

"Well, let's say I do get pregnant. When do you want me to come in?"

"Just call me when you're pregnant," he said.

"Oh, I thought some doctors don't want to see you until you're 8 weeks along. You don't have a specific time frame?"

"Don't worry. Just call me when you're pregnant."

"When will you do an ultrasound? How many would I typically have?"

"It depends on the situation. Don't worry about that now."

Don't worry? This is one of the most important things I've ever done, so not worrying isn't an option. Getting pregnant is ALL I'm thinking about, and I want answers. What's the harm in getting a sense of what lies ahead?

"Well, which multivitamin do you recommend?" I asked.

"You don't really need one. I'm going to give you a prescription for folic acid instead."

What? I thought. Yes, I'm generally a healthy person — I happen to eat pretty nutritiously, and work out regularly, etc., but he doesn't know that. For all he knows, I have McNuggets and martinis for dinner most nights, and a multivitamin might be sorely needed at this juncture. To be fair to him, I do understand that folic acid is one of the most important reasons pregnant women take multivitamins (folic acid helps protect against neural tube defects during pregnancy), but why go without the other vitamins and minerals?

I didn't push the issue, and he didn't seem keen to elaborate.

"What's your take on artificial sweeteners during pregnancy?"

"Avoid saccharine, but you can't really avoid aspartame since it's in everything."

Really? I shouldn't even try to avoid aspartame — the blue bags of sweet goodness that I add to my decaf coffee most days? I thought. Why not nix it just to be safe?

I decided I wouldn't even ask him about the tetanus shot I knew I was due for, or the whooping cough vaccine I also wanted. Why back down? Because I realized right then (and I feel good about this decision now) that this obgyn was not for me anymore — and I would get these answers from a new one. Yes, this doc had served me well in the past, and I'm sure his style is great for some people, but his carefree attitude in this all-important matter just didn't mesh well with my own analytical attitude. I was going to need detailed answers throughout this emotional, monumental, life-changing process, and a pamphlet on fish wasn't going to cut it.