Our nation is slowly beginning to understand that prevention is a more effective, cost-saving endeavor. We suffer through safety precautions at the airport, knowing that while sometimes inconvenient, the careful monitoring of passengers helps to prevent calamities like 9/11. We have started (better late than never ...) advocating for quality pre-kindergarten instruction that provides children with the tools to succeed in school, knowing that time and money invested in early education lowers drop-out rates, unintended teenage pregnancies and even chronic health problems.
We are used to taking simple health precautions that help us avoid pain and suffering later in life -- put on sunblock to avoid getting burnt; brush and floss your teeth to avoid cavities; exercise regularly to avoid heart disease; get immunized to avoid catching or spreading life-threatening illnesses ... the list goes on.
But what about PRE-prevention? When it comes to Maternal and Child Health, studies are beginning to show that even prenatal care is not enough to ensure a healthy birth and child. You may take your prenatal vitamins and attend your prenatal checkups, but if you haven’t designated some attention to pre-conception wellness, it is possible you are missing out on important preventive opportunities.
According to a report written by Michael C. Lu and published in the American Family Physician journal, “by the time pregnant women have their first prenatal visit, it may be too late to prevent some placental development problems or birth defects.” Neural tube defects arising from low folic acid intake can occur before the fetus is 4 weeks old, and poor development of the placenta (which can lead to preeclampsia, a life-threatening illness for pregnant women) before you even know you are pregnant!
This doesn’t mean health is a lost cause. It simply means that reproductive health is not an isolated point on the timeline of your life. The choices you make as a child, as a young adult, throughout middle age, and as a post-menopausal woman are all connected! You deserve the opportunity to take care of yourself at every age and stage of being.