October is Women’s Health Month: Healthy lifestyle leads to enhanced preconception care

| October 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

Sabriya Dennis
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — This month provides an opportunity for women to focus on making healthy lifestyle choices.

Having a healthy lifestyle is especially important for women who plan to get pregnant and have a baby.
About 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned, and women with unplanned pregnancies are at increased risk of delivering premature and low birth weight babies.

Women who are unaware of their pregnancy may engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, alcohol use or drug use, which all place a baby at risk and hinder development.

Other health-related issues such as poor nutrition, low physical activity and untreated sexually transmitted infections add to the risk of poor birth outcomes. Preconception health can help decrease pregnancy complications and decrease a child’s chances of future health and developmental problems.

Preconception care is the practice of good health habits and living a healthier lifestyle, regardless of a woman’s desire to have children. However, on average, most women do not discover they are pregnant until after they are four-six weeks along, and they don’t receive prenatal care until after this point. By that time, babies have already passed critical developmental milestones and are most susceptible to birth defects.

Unlike prenatal care during pregnancy, preconception care is preventive, and measures can be taken before women become pregnant. These actions help minimize risk of birth complications and defects.

If a person is not ready to begin a family, all contraceptive options should be considered to prevent or delay pregnancy.

Tips for healthy pregnancies

Women who practice general health choices can enjoy healthier lifestyles and pregnancies.

  • Stop smoking and drinking alcohol.
  • Avoid exposure to toxic substances or potentially infectious materials.
  • Talk to a doctor about any over-the-counter and prescribed medications, including vitamins and dietary or herbal supplements.
  • Seek treatment for all medical conditions.
  • Make sure all medical conditions are under control.
  • Update vaccinations.
  • Consult a doctor regarding family health history.
  • Reduce stress, whenever possible.
  • Get screened and treated for sexually transmitted infections.
  • Improve nutrition.

Preconception Health Sources

Visit the following sites to get more information about preconception.

 

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Category: Community, Health

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