A healthy body helps nurture a healthy baby

January 05, 2004|by Christine L. Moats

Are you considering having a baby? According to Jody Bishop, clinical manager of Washington County Hospital's Family Birthing Center, taking care of your body before and during your pregnancy gives your baby the best possible start in life.

Seeking prenatal care is one of the most important decisions you can make to have a healthy baby. Studies show that babies whose mothers did not receive prenatal care are four times more likely to die before their first birthday. Women who receive prenatal care in the first three months of pregnancy are more likely to have healthier babies.

It is especially helpful if you visit your doctor or midwife before you become pregnant. They will evaluate your overall health and help you prepare for your pregnancy. Be sure to discuss any current health problems or medications you are taking with your health-care provider.

You will need to start taking prenatal vitamins and make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet. Your baby will need plenty of nourishment to grow and develop. One essential mineral needed before and early in your pregnancy is folic acid. This special mineral helps the baby's nervous system to develop. This mineral is found in fortified cereal, liver, lentils and spinach.


The best way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in it.

You also will need to make decisions regarding any use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs. Alcohol use in pregnancy can cause mental retardation, central nervous system problems and interfere with your baby's growth. There is no amount of alcohol proven safe for pregnant women. Use of tobacco by a pregnant woman can cause a baby to be born too small, plus increase risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and neurodevelopmental abnormalities. Babies who are born under the influence of illegal drugs can be born addicted and suffer severe withdrawal symptoms at birth. Use of tobacco and illegal drugs also may cause miscarriages or stillbirths. Deciding to avoid alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs during pregnancy is crucial for your baby's health.

Prenatal care will be a continuing topic of this column each Monday this month.

- Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "Guidelines for Perinatal Care," fifth edition (2002); American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (1998); Texas Medical Association (2001); Hwang, M.Y. (May 1998), "Oh baby: Women receive more prenatal care today than a decade ago." Journal of the American Medical Association, (May 27, 1998).

Christine L. Moats is a wellness coordinator at Washington County Hospital.

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