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Basic Information on Health and Care Options for Women in Their Childbearing Years

Basic Information on Health and Care Options for Women in Their Childbearing Years

FS259E
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Gina Ord, MS, OTR/L, Assistant Professor, WSU Extension, Elizabeth Soliday, PhD, Associate Professor, Human Development, WSU Vancouver, Vivianne Fischer, MA, CPM, LM, Instructor, Department of Human Development, WSU, Kristin Eggleston, LM, CPM.
All women should have access to basic information on pregnancy nutrition and health care. This publication offers current guidelines on nutrition and weight gain for healthy pregnancy as well as infant feeding. It also reviews pregnancy and birth care options available to women with healthy pregnancies.
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Abstract

Nearly 40% of births to U.S. women result from “surprise” pregnancies. Whether or not a woman intends to become pregnant, it is useful to have basic information on pregnancy nutrition and health care handy to help get things off to a good start should the time come. In this publication, we discuss current guidelines on nutrition and weight gain for healthy pregnancy as well as infant feeding because these factors can make a difference in the health of mothers and babies. In addition, we review pregnancy and birth care options available to women with healthy pregnancies. These include safe options that may not be well known but that many women find supportive. Resources for more information are also provided.

Nutrition, Healthy Pregnancy, and Care Options Go Hand-in-Hand

Did you know that nearly 40% of births to U.S. women are the result of “surprise” pregnancies? (Mosher et al. 2012). Whether or not you intend to become pregnant, it is useful to have basic pregnancy health and health care facts on hand if you are in your childbearing years. Figure 1 shows the linkage between optimal health prior to and during pregnancy and increased birth options to allow for a safe and supported birth.

Nutrition, Lifestyle, and Healthy Pregnancy

What is a Low-Risk Pregnancy?

A “low-risk pregnancy” is expected to be free of problems, whereas a high-risk pregnancy has a higher risk of complications before, during, or after delivery. Most pregnancies are low risk, with only about 6–8% in the high-risk category (UCSF 2016). According to the National Institutes of Health (2016a), factors that put a woman at risk include health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and others. Very young or more advanced age, smoking, alcohol use, and conditions of pregnancy including gestational diabetes also increase risk. Women with higher levels of risk in their pregnancies can seek specialty or subspecialty care (Menard et al. 2015) that includes specialized equipment and doctors that can handle potential complications surrounding labor and birth. Although some pregnancy risks cannot be controlled, other risks can be reduced or even eliminated to enable a low-risk or lower risk pregnancy, which allows for a wider range of birth providers and settings.

Figure 1. Healthy Outcomes Sequence

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Issued by Washington State University Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in furtherance of the Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914. Extension programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, and national or ethnic origin; physical, mental, or sensory disability; marital status or sexual orientation; and status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local WSU Extension office. Trade names have been used to simplify information; no endorsement is intended.