Thoughtful Parenting: Preparing for the life-changing experience of having a baby

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— You may find it hard to believe, but more than half the pregnancies in the United States in the last couple of years have been unplanned.

We have, however, the opportunity for more open discussions about how to prepare for this momentous event of having a child. Medical providers as well as women of reproductive age can thoughtfully and positively discuss different aspects of getting ready for pregnancy.

Thoughtful Parenting

This weekly column about parenting issues is written by local early childhood experts. It publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

The following are some suggestions to include in that conversation:

  1. Taking prenatal vitamins. Most women have healthy diets but still lack in adequate intake of folic acid. Increasing that one vitamin has shown a huge effect in preventing neural tube birth defects.

  2. Suggesting a healthy body weight that is based on the Body Mass Index, which compares weight to height.  As the rate of obesity is rising, this is a wonderful motivating opportunity to rein in that extra weight because it is very difficult to lose weight (plus it is not recommended generally speaking) while pregnant. It can be so demoralizing to become pregnant, and the doctor says you may not gain any weight this pregnancy — no eating for two. Easy to say, very difficult to do as hunger during pregnancy can be very overpowering.

  3. Screening for infectious diseases like clamydia and treating as needed.

  4. Managing chronic diseases so that they are under control before becoming pregnant and will hopefully have less of a potential impact on the baby.

  5. Making sure immunizations are up to date. Only flu and Tdap are recommended to be given during pregnancy.

  6. Seeing the dentist for a cleaning and check up. There is a strong correlation between premature labor and poor oral health.

  7. Preparing financially for the cost of pregnancy as well as considering having another family member.

  8. Controlling environmental concerns at home and in the workplace as much as possible. Things to consider might be second-hand smoke, exposure to infectious diseases or domestic violence. Obviously, these factors can have negative effects both on mom to be as well as baby.

Talking about pregnancy before it happens helps to promote the health of women, which ultimately benefits the health of their children. Placing focus on healthy habits like daily prenatal vitamins, a good diet, getting plenty of exercise, appropriate vaccinations and seeing the dentist, results in a huge opportunity for lifelong health promotion.

Hope Cook is a public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The VNA has been a member of the Routt County Early Childhood Council since its inception in 1997.

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