A healthy baby is no accident. You can increase your chance of having a healthy pregnancy by following good health habits, quitting smoking, and making sure that your diet includes the right amount of folic acid.
About half of all pregnancies are unplanned. If there's any chance you may become pregnant, you need to start these healthy habits to ensure the healthiest possible child.
Infant mortality, premature births, and underweight births are serious problems in Mississippi. But there are five important steps that you can take to help make sure your baby develops well, is born on time, and has a safe and healthy first year of life. In this video, Dr. Mary Currier, former State Health Officer, talks about giving your baby the best start in life.
Increase Your Chances for a Healthy Baby
- Discuss your upcoming pregnancy with your health care provider.
- Treat medical conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, and high blood pressure, and continue to do so throughout your pregnancy.
- Watch your diet and your weight. Women should be within 15 pounds of their ideal weight before they become pregnant. Being overweight or underweight during pregnancy can lead to problems.
- Women should get all needed vaccinations such as rubella and chicken pox before their pregnancy. Getting a seasonal flu shot and Tdap vaccination when you are pregnant is also strongly advised.
- Take a multivitamin that has folic acid in it every day.
- Get regular, moderate exercise. Exercise is good for you and your baby, as it can help reduce fatigue and speed recovery after birth. Exercise also promotes a sense of well-being and decreases the stress of pregnancy.
- Have regular medical check-ups. Talk to your health care provider about any medical problems you may be having.
- Check with your doctor before taking medication. Some prescription and over-the-counter drugs may be harmful to a developing baby.
- Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables to remove any possible insecticide residue.
- Take a multivitamin that has folic acid in it every day.
- Take iron supplements to prevent anemia.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat.
- Avoid all alcohol, tobacco, and street drugs.
- Avoid contact with raw meat and cat feces (both are sources of toxoplasmosis).
- Avoid cleaning agents, paint, and some insecticides that may contain toxic ingredients.
- Avoid X-rays during pregnancy.
- Avoid substances at work or at home your doctor says might be harmful to a developing baby. Using alcohol and illicit drugs during pregnancy can cause very serious problems for a developing child. Even small amounts of alcohol or drugs can cause learning problems and behavioral disorders in the newborn.
- Avoid risky sexual practices. Sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV can harm your baby.
Folic Acid: A Necessary Nutrient for Proper Development
Folic acid is a B-vitamin that can reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine. All women who could become pregnant should get 400 micrograms (400 mcg or 0.4 mg) of folic acid every day.
Talk to your health care provider about:
- Care for you and your baby before and during pregnancy
- Changes in diet
- Which vaccinations to have and when to get them
- What kinds of exercise are acceptable during pregnancy
- Any medications you are taking for any medical problems or sickness
- Anything that is unclear or of concern regarding the pregnancy
Smoking and Pregnancy
Cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke can lead to many problems, including low birth weight, miscarriage, and infant mortality.
If You Are a Non-Smoker
Avoid other people's smoke while you are pregnant and after the baby is born. If other people in your home smoke, they should quit. Studies show that regular exposure to secondhand smoke may harm a developing child.
If You Smoke
You and should quit or cut back as much as you can. Here are some resources that can help:
Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
When a pregnant woman drinks alcohol, so does her unborn baby. Alcohol, even in the early stages of pregnancy, can cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome causes abnormal features, growth retardation, and lifelong learning and behavior problems in children.
Alcohol can damage a fetus at any stage of pregnancy – even before a woman knows she is pregnant.
All drinks containing alcohol can hurt an unborn baby. A standard 12-ounce can of beer has the same amount of alcohol as a four-ounce glass of wine or a one-ounce shot of straight liquor. There is no safe kind of alcohol for a pregnant woman.
Nearly half of all births in the United States are unplanned. Women who could become pregnant, even if they are not planning to do so, should not drink. If you are pregnant and drinking, stop.
Having a Healthy Baby – On Time
Babies go through important steps of development during the last weeks of pregnancy. Waiting to deliver at full term – at least 39 weeks – ensures that your newborn has the best possible chance in life. Let your doctor know that waiting until full term is important to you unless it is medically necessary to deliver sooner.
MSDH Programs for Prenatal Care
Perinatal High Risk Management Infant Service System (PHRM)
As a Medicaid provider, MSDH provides a Perinatal High Risk case management program (PHRM). This program includes a multi-disciplinary range of preventive health services for pregnant women including physical exams, nutrition, social services, health screening, education, counseling, interventions, and referral service as appropriate. The primary objective of the MSDH perinatal health care program is to decrease infant mortality and low birth weight infants by providing health care to pregnant women. By increasing the number of women having access to prenatal care, it is intended to assist with the reduction of infant mortality.
Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Survey (PRAMS)
The Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Survey is a joint project between the Mississippi State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The purpose is to find out why some babies are born healthy and others are not. To do this the survey asks new mothers questions about their pregnancies. The answers are confidential and will assist us in learning more about ways to improve the chances for mothers and babies in Mississippi. The data will also assist for future planning.