Your wedding day is just months away. Planning has been hectic but fun and you figure you’ve covered everything. Not only have you gotten the details down to your bridesmaids’ matching shoe style, but you’ve even been on a fabulous skincare regimen for months along with an exercise regimen that will keep you toned and at your very best on the Big Day. Now of course you’ve done marriage counseling and you are preparing yourself mentally and emotionally for becoming one with Mr. Right. You are set, and like many women who desire marriage and a family, you probably can’t wait to get started. Yes, planning for your wedding day is great, but has your planning included Preconception Care?
It’s what women do when they decide that want to have kids. That’s not you, right; not yet? Well, let’s think about it. As a Nigerian bride in America, you get the best of both worlds. Many of us are black, yet many times, we tend not to relate with our African American counterparts. Did you know that the infant mortality rate for African American infants is almost double that of all races combined?(1) And, did you know that even though infants of African born mothers usually have better outcomes, their 1st and 2nd generation offspring (for some, that’s you and me) mirror the plight of our African American colleagues? (2) That means that you too might be at high risk for poor birth outcomes. There are several reasons why infant mortality is such an issue in the Black community but studies show that there are some practical things we can do to help.
Preconception care is making sure that you are in optimal health before you conceive your baby. By taking specific steps, you can aim to be your healthiest and lower your risk of experiencing poor birth outcomes. What’s also great about it is that you learn to become your best you, thus benefiting for you, your spouse and your future kids. The key is to establish the best medical care for yourself, develop healthy behaviors, have strong support and provide a safe environment for yourself and you family overall. In essence, if you begin looking holistically at your maternal health early on, you can catch issues that could otherwise be a problem when you are ready for children.
Approximately half of the pregnancies in the United States are unintended(3). That means that if care is not taken, the wonderful news of “Junior’s” impending arrival will be a surprise for many. And, whether planned or not, it is during the first several weeks (the time when many have no clue that they could be pregnant) that the most important development of the fetus occurs, such as brain and nervous system development. And unfortunately, if such a person is still caught in unhealthy habits during that time, she could face a miscarriage; or the baby could be born with birth defects, at a low-birth-weight or as premature.
It is never too early to start preparing for a healthy pregnancy. Here are 10 tips that can help:
- Get regularly scheduled physical examinations and follow your doctor’s treatment plans. Take particular note of issues such as diabetes or thyroid issues. Also consult with your doctor about any medications. Some medications are teratogenic, meaning that they can harm a fetus.
- Start taking Folic Acid now! A daily 400 mg tablet would do or chose a multivitamin that contains this amount.
- Be up to date on your vaccinations!
- Know your cycle.
- Lose the stress.
- Put a check on unhealthy habits such as unhealthy dieting or overeating
- Consider wearing gloves when cleaning around the house. You want to avoid chemicals getting into your skin.
- Cut off harmful habits such as smoking, drinking or drug use.
- Do some reading! Familiarize yourself with pregnancy and know what to expect. That way you may recognize the signs earlier than if you had no clue.
- And of course, the regulars: exercise often; eat healthy; get enough sleep.
The health and well-being of your future is in your hands. Be proactive.
1. CDC 2010. Infant Mortality Statistics from the 2006 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set. National Vital Statistics Reports. Table 2. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr58/nvsr58_17.pdf [PDF | 592.25KB]
2. Episode 2, When the Bough Breaks from UNNATURAL CAUSES: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? Produced by California Newsreel with Vital Pictures, 2008. Presented by the National Minority Consortia. www.unnaturalcauses.org; www.newsreel.org
3. Finer LB and Henshaw SK. Disparities in Rates of Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001. Perspectives on Sexual Reproductive Health, 2006:38:90–96.
About the Contributor
TI Ajao resides in Baltimore, MD with her husband and toddler son. She obtained her MPH in Maternal and Child Health from the George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services and was trained as a Preconception Care Peer Educator through the A Healthy Baby Begins with You campaign established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. For more information visit http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/
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