What is maternal health (MH) and why is it so important for women? MH refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. For women, this should be a positive experience, but many may face preventable or treatable health care challenges that can affect them during this vital time in their life.
If you are pregnant now or planning to become pregnant, practicing good MH is one way to ensure the best start for your little one. Women who practice good health are less likely to have complications during pregnancy and they’re also more likely to give birth to a healthy baby according to Healthline.
Why do we need to improve maternal health?
A May 2020 article from womenshealth.gov, notes an increase in the number of pregnant women in the U.S. that have chronic health conditions that may put them at higher risk of complications. Improving the well-being of mothers, infants and children is an important public health goal for the U.S. according to HealthyPeople.gov.
With over 3.5 million women giving birth each year in the U.S., the Dept of Health and Human Services (HHS) is working with agencies across the country to help decrease risks and improve outcomes during pregnancy and the postpartum period.
While 80% of women have healthy pregnancies and deliveries, the rate of complications is rising. In 2018, nearly 1 in 10 women who delivered a baby were diagnosed with postpartum depression (PPD), with PPD being most prevalent in women ages 18-24 according to a review by BCBS.
What are the MH conditions/problems?
The (CDC) reports that a pregnant woman may experience:
- High Blood Pressure
- Diabetes during pregnancy
- Obesity and Weight Gain
- Severe Nausea
What are the health risks?
According to HealthyPeople.gov, pregnancy can provide an opportunity to identify existing health risks in women and to prevent future health problems for women and their children. These risks may include:
- Hypertension and heart disease
- Genetic conditions
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- Tobacco, alcohol and substance use
- Poor nutrition
Where to start for better MH?
Talk with your doctor first for advice on maintaining best health practices during pregnancy. Before beginning any exercise, be sure to talk with your provider, especially if you are in a high-risk category.
You can take the first step by following prenatal care, eating healthy, rest, and exercise. Take the time to read the USDA’s pregnancy fact sheet on our website for more dietary information.
Why is physical activity so important?
Physical activity is essential for all women during every stage of life, but moderate-physical activity for a healthy pregnant woman has many benefits, including reduced risk of gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain, and reduced symptoms of PPD.
The American College of OB/GYNS (ACOG) recommends pregnant women, free of complications, take part in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. Check out the ACOG poster on exercises during pregnancy and after the baby is born.
How does exercise help?
Healthline advises for the majority of normal pregnancies, exercise can:
- Increase energy levels
- Improve sleep
- Strengthen muscles and endurance
- Reduce backaches
- Relieve constipation
- Ease Labor
- Improve infant health
At BlueRidge OB/GYN, a Duke Health practice, we remain committed in our efforts to ensure that maternal health practices lead the way for our patients.
Take the steps to improve your maternal health. Your medical team is dedicated to helping guide your journey for a healthy pregnancy.
The information on this site is intended to raise awareness and understanding of specific health issues. It should not be used for diagnosis or a substitute for health care by your physician.