Pregnancy often is a time of excitement and joy.
Yet, with so much information to consider, moms-to-be can feel overwhelmed. That’s why access to appropriate prenatal, post-partum and well-child care is important for the immediate and longterm health of mothers and babies.
One out of 10 babies nationwide each year is born premature, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preterm births represent a small percentage of all births; however, infants born before term represent a large proportion of all infant deaths.
In Florida, infant mortality is 6.1 for every thousand live births, putting the state at No. 27 nationwide, according to United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings: The Health of Women and Children Report.
Here are five tips to help you and your baby have a healthy pregnancy and birth:
1. Take charge of your health during pregnancy. Eat well, stay active, get rest and limit stress as much as possible. Share your goals with your maternity care provider and ask for support and suggestions. Your health plan might have free programs and online services that can help you get and stay healthy throughout your pregnancy.
2. Choose a maternity care provider and birth setting that best fits your needs. Where and with whom you give birth can have a major impact on the care you receive, your health, your baby’s health and your satisfaction with your childbearing experience. That’s why it’s important to look for a maternity care provider and birth setting that meets your goals and preferences. More information on choosing a maternity care provider and birth setting is available at www.ChildbirthConnection.org/HealthyPregnancy.
3. Learn what happens to your body concerns and make informed decisions about your maternity care. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advises against elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy, including cesarean sections unless medically necessary.
4. Know your maternity benefits and rights at work. If you work full time and plan to return to your job after your baby is born, it is helpful to know your company’s maternity leave policy so you and your family are prepared. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables mothers and fathers who have worked at least one year for a company with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off, while many employers offer full or partial paid leave. Under the law, you are guaranteed to get your job back after your leave.
5. Plan for support once your baby arrives. Life with a new baby is a big adjustment, and it is okay to ask for help. If you are planning to breastfeed, start learning what it involves and the support you might need to get off to a good start. Be sure to call your maternity care provider if you have problems breastfeeding or experience other difficulties when you’re home with your new baby.
Pregnancy, labor, birth and the early postpartum period are important times for women and families. By accessing available information and resources, women and new parents can make more informed decisions for themselves and their babies, and experience a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
Dr. Mayrene Hernandez is chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare of South Florida.