By Kristy Goldwire, MSW
Preparing for a baby is no easy feat. From choosing the best doctors to decorating the nursery, the road to meeting your baby for the Wrst time is full of anticipation and decisions. At Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition we ask that you add one more decision to your list, and that is the decision to prepare your body for pregnancy before conceiving.
Why is this important to think about in advance? Because 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned regardless of race, education and income. What this tells us is that not enough women are properly preparing their bodies to carry a baby full term. As the agency charged with improving pregnancy and birth outcomes,
we see that failing to prepare for a pregnancy can lead to poor prenatal health for the mom. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of more babies suVering from birth defects, premature birth or infant mortality.
Through our preconception health education, we encourage more women to think about having children before conception takes place. Now is the best time to address chronic disease such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, mental health struggles and sexually transmitted diseases. Whether you want a baby in nine
months or nine years, we encourage you to get healthy now to eliminate health risks that could negatively affect a future pregnancy. Here are few tips to get you started:
Get Plenty of Folic Acid
This is a naturally occurring B vitamin that helps the baby’s brain development and should be taken before and during pregnancy. The best way to get enough is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid and eat a healthy diet.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity increases the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and a poor health status. This in turn can negatively affect pregnancy and birth outcomes. Speak with your doctor about steps to reach and maintain a healthy weight, and don’t forget to incorporate some type of physical activity regularly.
Take Care of Your Mouth
Research shows a direct link between the health of your mouth and the health of your body. Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, can lead to heart disease, diabetes, gestational diabetes while pregnant, and delivering a low birthweight baby. Brush and floss your teeth twice daily, and be sure to visit your dentist
Practice Safe Sex
Avoid engaging in risky sexual behaviors. Abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent HIV, other STDs and an unplanned pregnancy.
Smoking increases your chances of having a heart attack, stroke or cancer.
Kristy Goldwire, MSW, is executive director of the Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition.