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March for Babies

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
March for Babies

Nearly four-million babies are born annually in America, and each one deserves the best start to life possible. With that goal in mind, the March of Dimes—which is dedicated to improving the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature births and infant mortality—holds March for Babies events nationwide throughout the month of April. ATRIO Health Plans shares the March of Dimes' goal of helping women have healthy, full-term pregnancies, and is working to increase awareness about the importance of preconception health.

Preconception Steps

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preconception care can improve birth outcomes, including reducing the number of babies born prematurely or at low birth weights.

With an eye toward increasing the odds of having a healthy baby, the CDC recommends these preconception steps:

  • Checkup – Talk to your physician about preconception health care. Your doctor likely will discuss: your health history; any medical conditions you currently have that could affect a pregnancy; any previous pregnancy problems; medications you take; vaccinations you might need; and steps you can take before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.
  • Medical conditions – If you have any medical conditions, it's essential that they are under control prior to pregnancy. Among these conditions are: arthritis; diabetes; eating disorders; high blood pressure; phenylketonuria; seizure disorders; sexually transmitted diseases; and thyroid disease.
  • Lifestyle behaviors – Smoking, drinking alcohol, and using illegal drugs can cause premature birth, birth defects, and infant death. If you’re trying to get pregnant and can’t stop engaging in these behaviors, your doctor can refer you to counseling, treatment, and other support services.
  • Medications – Taking certain medications during pregnancy—including some prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as dietary or herbal supplements—can cause serious birth defects. Before becoming pregnant, discuss with your physician which medications could be harmful.
  • Vaccinations – Talk with your doctor about which vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy, or following delivery.
  • Toxic substances and environmental contaminants – Avoid toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent droppings. These substances can damage the reproductive systems of both men as well as women, and can make it more difficult to conceive.
  • Weight – Women who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for pregnancy complications, as well as for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers. Women who are underweight also are at risk for serious health problems. If you are underweight, overweight, or obese, talk with your doctor about how to reach a healthy weight prior to pregnancy.
  • Family history – Share you family’s health history with your doctor. Based on this information, your physician may recommend taking certain precautions, such as undergoing genetic counseling.

Pregnancy Do’s and Don’ts

How women take care of themselves during pregnancy also is key to their health and the health of their baby. To help expectant moms do what’s best for both, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health offers the following guidelines.

Expectant moms should:

  • See their doctor regularly;
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, cooked seafood);
  • Drink extra fluids, especially water;
  • Try to exercise about 30 minutes most days;
  • Wash their hands, especially after handling raw meat or using the restroom;
  • Get enough sleep—aim for seven to nine hours every night;
  • Reduce stress as much as possible;
  • Make sure that any ongoing health issues—such as diabetes or high blood pressure—are being monitored closely;
  • Consult their doctor before stopping or taking any medications, both prescription and over-the-counter;
  • Protect themselves from food-borne illnesses by handling, cooking, and storing food properly;
  • Get a flu shot.

Pregnant women shouldn’t:

  • Smoke tobacco;
  • Be exposed to toxic substances, including cleaning solvents, lead, mercury, some insecticides, and paint;
  • Drink alcohol or use illegal drugs;
  • Clean or change a cat’s litter box;
  • Have contact with rodents—including household pet rodents such as guinea pigs and hamsters—as well as with their urine, droppings, and nesting materials;
  • Take very hot baths or use hot tubs or saunas;
  • Use scented feminine hygiene products or douche;
  • Get x-rays.

Preconception health—as well as good health during pregnancy—are the most sure paths to the priceless gift of a healthy baby.