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Get Your Baby Off to a Healthy Start–Begin Before

Get Your Baby Off to a Healthy Start–Begin Before It’s Born!
Larry Denton

Did you know that every year nearly one million American women deliver babies without receiving adequate medical attention? Or that babies born to mothers who received no prenatal care are three times more likely to be born at low birth weight, and five times more likely to die, than those whose mothers received prenatal care?

If you are pregnant, there are programs in your state, that can help you deliver a healthy baby. These programs offer medical care, support and advice for pregnant women, and information about health insurance and other services you and your baby may need. For information about prenatal services in your community call (toll free) 1-800-311-BABY (1-800-311-2229). For information in Spanish, call 1-800-504-7081. Or to gain the information you need to have a healthy baby contact your state or local health department.

There are five vitally important things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy child. First, see a doctor or other health care provider from the start of your pregnancy. Prenatal care is medical attention given to the expectant mother and her developing baby. It also involves the mother’s caring for herself by following the health care provider’s advice, eating nutritious meals, getting plenty of rest, exercising sensibly, and avoiding things that could harm her or her baby.

Secondly, don’t drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or take drugs during your pregnancy. There is simply NO safe level of alcohol consumption if you are pregnant. One drink may be too many, since any alcohol you drink enters both your and your baby’s bloodstream. Alcohol usage during pregnancy may cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), in which babies suffer from physical, behavioral, and mental problems.

As for drugs, even some legal, over-the-counter medications–antihistamines or pain medications that contain ibuprofen–can be harmful to a developing fetus. Don’t take ANY medication without first consulting with your health care provider. Be careful of vitamins, as well. Although you may need more iron, calcium, or folic acid, too much of other nutrients can harm your baby. Again, consult your doctor.

A pregnant smoker is at higher risk for problems during her pregnancy. Babies born to mothers who smoke have a lower average birthrate, an increased rate of premature birth, and are at greater risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), than babies born to non-smokers.

Studies have shown that women who quit smoking early in their pregnancies can reduce the risk of damage to their baby. Even quitting in the last month of pregnancy can help your baby by increasing the amount of oxygen available to him/her at the time of delivery.

The third crucial thing you can do to have a healthy baby is to eat healthy foods–particularly fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, eggs, cheese and whole grains. A healthy baby really starts with healthy foods. When you are pregnant, everything you eat or drink nourishes your baby as well. That is why it is so very important to eat a healthy diet. A pregnant woman only needs about 300 extra calories a day to meet her needs and provide her baby the necessary nutrients. Therefore, your goal should be to highly nutritious foods while avoiding excessive calories, fat, sugar, and sodium.

A fourth way to help have a healthy baby is to take care of YOUR health and exercise sensibly and regularly. Exercise promotes muscle tone, strength and endurance–three qualities that can help you better carry the weight you gain during pregnancy,
prepare you for the stress of labor, and make it easier to get back in shape after your delivery. You can’t beat walking or swimming or overall fitness during pregnancy. Again, as with most pregnancy related topics, check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine.

Finally, have your baby checked by a doctor or health care provider right after birth and throughout childhood. It is important to keep your health care appointments for both you and your baby, to get the proper medical attention you may both require.

Best wishes for an uneventful, healthy pregnancy and a happy, healthy new “bundle of joy” in the near future.

About the Author

Larry Denton is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson High in Hobson, Montana. He is currently V.P. of Elfin Enterprises, Inc., an Internet business providing valuable information on a variety of timely topics. For a ob/gyn office full of advice, resources and suggestions about delivering a healthy baby, visit http://www.PregnancySense.com


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