Giving Babies a Healthier Start
Doctors are learning more about what's essential for healthy pregnancies and the importance of conveying that to even very young women.
Doctors are focusing more on girls' health well before the child-bearing years to make sure that when the time arrives, they’ll have the best chance for a healthy pregnancy. In May, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended that girls start seeing an OB/GYN around age 13 to discuss menstruation, sexuality issues, and sexually transmitted diseases, and to head off any weight, mental health, or eating problems that may affect child-bearing health down the road. Meanwhile, researchers are learning that the factors affecting a newborn's health reach back at least two generations. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published guidelines for preconception care, stressing that tending to women's physical and emotional health before conception can lessen the likelihood of high-risk pregnancies, premature births (the leading cause of infant death), and birth defects. And moms-to-be are now urged to start maternity care before the fetus is most vulnerable.
What to Watch:
Women of child-bearing age are likely to get more counseling from doctors on the mental and physical health measures that will build a foundation of good health when they're ready to have kids. Parents of teen girls may get counseling earlier to make sure that their daughters get healthy starts, with good nutrition and preventive gynecological care. This new wave of prenatal care promises to foster a generation of healthier newborns with fewer medical needs throughout their lives. And that could help reduce the emotional and financial toll these preemies take on scores of families ― and the entire health care system.
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