Why preconception health matters
Preconception health is a woman’s health before she becomes pregnant. It means knowing how health conditions and risk factors could affect a woman or her unborn baby if she becomes pregnant. For example, some foods, habits, and medicines can harm your baby — even before he or she is conceived. Some health problems, such as diabetes, also can affect pregnancy.
Every woman should be thinking about her health whether or not she is planning pregnancy. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are not planned. Unplanned pregnancies are at greater risk of preterm birth and low birth weight babies. Another reason is that, despite important advances in medicine and prenatal care, about 1 in 8 babies is born too early. Researchers are trying to find out why and how to prevent preterm birth. But experts agree that women need to be healthier before becoming pregnant. By taking action on health issues and risks before pregnancy, you can prevent problems that might affect you or your baby later.
Five most important things to boost your preconception health
Women and men should prepare for pregnancy before becoming sexually active — or at least three months before getting pregnant. Some actions, such as quitting smoking, reaching a healthy weight, or adjusting medicines you are using, should start even earlier. The five most important things you can do for preconception health are:
1. Take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) of folic acid every day if you are planning or capable of pregnancy to lower your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine, including spina bifida. All women need folic acid every day. Talk to your doctor about your folic acid needs. Some doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins that contain higher amounts of folic acid.
2. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
4. Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using. These include dietary or herbal supplements. Be sure your vaccinations are up to date.
5. Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials that could cause infection at work and at home. Stay away from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.
Talk to your doctor before you become pregnant
In celebration of National Women’s Health Week in May, remember to make every day mother’s day! Healthy women have healthy families, and preconception care can improve your chances of getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy, and having a healthy baby.
One of the best things a mother can do for her children is to be healthy before, during and beyond pregnancy. If you are sexually active, talk to your doctor about your preconception health now. Preconception care should begin at least three months before you get pregnant. But some women need more time to get their bodies ready for pregnancy. Be sure to discuss your partner’s health too. Ask your doctor about:
· Family planning and birth control.
· Taking folic acid.
· Managing health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, obesity, depression, eating disorders, and asthma. Find out how pregnancy may affect, or be affected by, health problems you have.
· Medicines you use, including over-the-counter, herbal, and prescription drugs and supplements.
· Ways to improve your overall health, such as reaching a healthy weight, making healthy food choices, being physically active, caring for your teeth and gums, reducing stress, quitting smoking, and avoiding alcohol.
· How to avoid illness.
· Hazards in your workplace or home that could harm you or your baby.
· Health problems that run in your or your partner’s family.
· Problems you have had with prior pregnancies, including preterm birth.
· Family concerns that could affect your health, such as domestic violence or lack of support.
“Make Every Day Mother’s Day” is a partnership between the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC)-Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the 14 organizations and individuals that comprise the Tarrant County Infant Mortality Network
To schedule a pre-pregnancy check-up call (817) 735-DOCS (3627)
Funding for this activity was made possible in part by the HHS, Office on Women’s Health. The views expressed in written materials or publications any by speakers and moderators at HHS-sponsored conferences do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
Included information is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health