Preconception and Interconception Care

The periods before becoming pregnant and between pregnancies provide many opportunities to set the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. Preconception care is the provision of preventive, promotive, and curative health services, plus social interventions before conception occurs. 

Interconception care is the provision of preventive, promotive, and curative health services, plus social interventions between pregnancies. 

Preconception and interconception care[i] includes these services:

  • Promoting healthy nutrition (including micronutrient supplementation), healthy lifestyles (exercise, avoiding tobacco or other drug use, limiting alcohol intake), and addressing environmental risks, such as indoor smoke or pollution
  • Empowering and educating girls and women
  • Ensuring a secure environment for girls and women and addressing violence against women
  • Preventing, screening, and treating sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV
  • Supporting family planning
  • Encouraging the delay of marriage

Family planning is a key component of safe motherhood and reproductive health services. It enables couples to determine whether, when, and how often to have children, and it is vital to safe motherhood and child health. Infant, child, and maternal mortality can be reduced by limiting births and preventing closely spaced births or births to very young or old mothers. More than 90% of women during their first year postpartum either want to delay the next pregnancy for at least two years or avoid future pregnancies altogether. An important strategy for reducing maternal mortality is to prevent unintended pregnancies because that reduces exposure to obstetric risks. Avoiding these unintended pregnancies could prevent an estimated 25% of maternal mortality.[ii] Spacing pregnancies reduces the risk of induced abortion, miscarriage, newborn death, stillbirth, preterm birth, low-birth weight, and maternal death. After a live birth, women should wait at least 24 months before attempting the next pregnancy to reduce the risk of adverse maternal, perinatal, and infant outcomes. After a miscarriage or induced abortion, women should wait at least six months before attempting the next pregnancy. Adolescents should delay first pregnancy until at least 18 years of age.[iii] See the Family Planning TRM to learn more about the recommended birth-to-pregnancy interval, contraceptive methods, integration with other topics, community-base programming considerations, and key messages.

[i] CORE Group, 2004. Maternal and Newborn Standards and Indicators Compendium.

[ii] K4Health, 2013. Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy Toolkit.

[iii] WHO, 2006. Report of a WHO Technical Consultation on Birth Spacing.