Research demonstrates that life-long health begins before birth. As a mom-to-be, taking the best care of yourself and your unborn child can help your child have a healthier life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), any woman planning a pregnancy should start with preconception care. This includes a visit to her OB/Gyn where topics, like vaccinations, previous pregnancy challenges and things she can do pre-pregnancy to prevent some birth defects, will be discussed.
Dr. Leslie Meyer of Rappahannock Women's Health Center in Fredericksburg offers the following three-month to one-year preconception checklist:
• Monitor your diet and eliminate processed and sugary foods.
• Get in the best possible physical shape. Consult a dietitian or personal trainer, if necessary.
• Lose weight, if needed. Talk to your physician before taking on any new or strenuous exercise programs.
• Address conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
During pregnancy, Dr. Meyer suggests, "The expectant mother should maintain her regular level of physical activity and be sure to schedule regular check-ups with her OB. This will give the physician the best opportunity to detect any problems before they escalate." She also cautions, "Some issues, such as urinary tract infections, can have different symptoms when you are pregnant and, if not caught in time, can turn into kidney infections and potentially lead to sepsis and even death."
Not only is a healthy pregnancy important to a baby's ultimate well-being, but also avoiding premature labor and birth. The March of Dimes website states that 1 in 9 babies in the United States are born prematurely (defined as 37 or fewer weeks in utero). They also caution, "Premature birth costs society more than $26 billion a year and takes a high toll on families. Babies born just a few weeks early are at risk of severe health problems and lifelong disabilities. Premature birth is the leading killer of newborns."
Unfortunately, the cause of premature labor is often unknown. Dr. Meyer explains that the biggest predictor of preterm delivery is a history of preterm delivery. The March of Dimes is funding research on this important topic through their Prematurity Campaign.
In the meantime, Dr. Meyer urges pregnant women, again, to "Keep up with your regular prenatal checkups and contact your doctor with any symptoms of pelvic pressure, cramping, fluid leakage or bleeding."