Pre-conception care : current practice and methods of provision
This thesis examines the present provisions for pre-conception care and the views of the providers of services. Pre-conception care is seen by some clinicians and health educators as a means of making any necessary changes in life style, corrections to imbalances in the nutritional status of the prospective mother (and father) and the assessment of any medical problems, thus maximizing the likelihood of the normal development of the baby. Pre-conception care may be described as a service to bridge the gap between the family planning clinic and the first ante-natal booking appointment. There were three separate foci for the empirical research - the Foresight organisation (a charity which has pioneered pre-conception care in Britain); the pre-conception care clinic at the West London Hospital, Hammersmith; and the West Midlands Regional Health Authority. The six main sources of data were: twenty five clinicians operating Foresight pre-conception clinics, couples attending pre-conception clinics, committee members of the Foresight organisation, staff of the West London Hospital pre-conception clinic, Hammersmith, District Health Education Officers working in the West Midlands Regional Health Authority and the members of the Ante-Natal Care Action Group, a sub-group of the Regional Health Advisory Group on Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine. A range of research methods were adopted. These were as follows: questionnaires and report forms used in co-operation with the Foresight clinicians, interviews, participant observation discussions and informal meetings and, finally, literature and official documentation. The research findings illustrated that pre-conception care services provided at the predominantly private Foresight clinics were of a rather `ad hoc' nature. The type of provision varied considerably and clearly reflected the views held by its providers. The protocol which had been developed to assist in the standardization of results was not followed by the clinicians. The pre-conception service provided at the West London Hospital shared some similarities in its approach with the Foresight provision; a major difference was that it did not advocate the use of routine hair trace metal analysis. Interviews with District Health Education Officers and with members of the Ante Natal Care Action Group revealed a tentative and cautious approach to pre-conception care generally and to the Foresight approach in particular. The thesis concludes with a consideration of the future of pre-conception care and the prospects for the establishment of a comprehensive pre-conception care service.