Becoming a mother is a wondrous event. It is also a lifelong commitment to another special human being, your child. To provide your new baby with the best start in life, taking care of yourself in your childbearing years is essential. When you think that half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended, it’s very important to follow a healthy lifestyle every day to ensure a good pregnancy and a good start for your baby.
Sunday is Mother’s Day. To those of you planning a pregnancy or hoping to be a mother someday, this is for you.
The United States does not fare as well as many other industrialized countries when it comes to the health of its newborns. Preterm births and low birth-weight babies are often the result of unhealthy pregnancies and a lack of prenatal care. New information and research has given us lots of good information about what is important to do before and during your pregnancy to increase your chances of having a healthy baby. Having a plan about when you want to start a family and what you intend to do to get yourself in the best health possible is a good start. This is called preconception health care, and it can make a big difference in the well-being of you and your baby.
At Planned Parenthood Arizona, you can see us for preconception health checkups. In addition to pregnancy planning services and fertility awareness education, we provide other services that can help you be in the best health possible before you conceive. We offer physical exams as part of our general health care services. You also might be interested in STD screening, to ensure that you receive treatment before you become pregnant. Additionally, we offer smoking cessation, to help you quit smoking for a tobacco-free pregnancy.
Here are some guidelines for ensuring your preconception health:
- Plan when you want to have a family and space your pregnancies. Be sure you are ready for the responsibility and expense of a child. If it’s not your first child, wait 18 to 24 months before having an additional child to allow your body to recover and prepare for another pregnancy.
- Enter pregnancy as healthy as possible. This means eating healthfully and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise regularly.
- Make an appointment with your health care provider for a check-up. Treat and control any chronic health conditions, including sexually transmitted diseases. Learn your family history.
- Don’t smoke. Don’t use alcohol excessively and never while you’re pregnant. Don’t use street drugs or recreational drugs. Any of these may harm your developing child. Talk with a doctor about medications you take regularly, because some medications may cause birth defects.
- Take a prenatal vitamin daily that contains 400 micrograms of folic acid to prevent major birth defects. Take these vitamins for a month or more before you try to get pregnant and throughout your pregnancy.
- Have your vaccinations up to date. Discuss these with a doctor.
- Stay away from toxic substances such as bug sprays or other environmental substances that could harm your developing baby.
- Stay emotionally and mentally healthy, and get treatment if you need help.
- See a doctor throughout your pregnancy for checkups and prenatal care.
Even though people who were born male cannot get pregnant, they can also follow healthy practices so the child they father is as healthy as possible. These include:
- Prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases.
- Stop smoking, using street drugs, and drinking alcohol excessively.
- Stay healthy mentally and get treatment for violence if needed.
- Support your partner.
Following these guidelines before you get pregnant is a good start to having a healthy baby someday. And then it will be a happy Mother’s Day for all!
Planned Parenthood health centers across the country can help you stay healthy and refer you to the resources you need when you decide to become a mother. Planned Parenthood Arizona also offers smoking cessation, and our Title X centers can provide you with prenatal vitamins if you qualify.