A major influence on pregnancy outcomes is women’s health and health care during the year leading up to pregnancy (called the preconception period).
Consider this: If a woman is in poor health before pregnancy, there is an increased risk of:
- Premature birth
- A low birth weight baby
- Major birth defects
- Pregnancy complications
- Death of the mother and/or infant
(Hobel, Goldstein & Barrett, 2008; Behrman & Stith-Butler, 2007; Lu, Lu & Dunkell, 2005)
When a woman isn’t prepared for pregnancy, her baby’s health is at risk even before conception. While the importance of prenatal care is generally accepted in the U.S., research shows that for many women prenatal care is too little, too late. Services and education are needed both before and during pregnancy. Starting at conception and for the first eight weeks of development, [fetal] organs form. During that period, a fetus that has the benefit of a mother who had good pre-pregnancy health — good nutrition, healthy constitution, and…limited stress…has a high probability of developing strong, healthy organs. By contrast, if the mother (and her habits) are unhealthy during this critical year, the baby’s development may suffer (Delissaint & McKyer, 2011).
For Our Babies believes that providing prenatal health care doesn’t begin early enough in the pregnancy timeline . By the time a woman sees a doctor for her first prenatal visit, most fetal organs are already formed. At that point, the opportunity to prevent birth defects through proper intervention has come and gone. For that reason, we advocate a more proactive, preventive approach called preconception care , a program of health interventions designed to lower preconception risks to both a mother and her baby (American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2002).
American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2002). In: Gilstrap, L., Oh, W., edistors. Guidelines for perinatal care. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.
Behrman, R.E., & Stith-Butler, A., editors (2007). Preterm birth: causes, consequences, and prevention. Washington (DC): National Academies Press.
Delissaint, D., & McKyer, E.L. (2011). A Systematic Review of Factors Utilized in Preconception Health Behavior Research, Health Educ Behav, 38, 604-615.
Hobel, C.J., Goldstein, A., & Barrett, E.S. (2008). Psychosocial stress and pregnancy outcome. Clin Obstetrics Gynecol, 51, 333-48.
Lu, Q, Lu, M.C., & Dunkell Schetter, C. (2005). Learning from success and failure in psychosocial intervention: an evaluation of low birth weight prevention trials. Journal of Health Psychology, 10, 185-195.