FRIDAY, July 5 (HealthDay News) -- Would-be moms often want to know how to trim their bellies after having children. But how actively do they seek tips for getting their bodies in great shape before getting pregnant?
Until recently, that part of the baby-making equation had been largely absent from the discussion. Increasingly, though, maternal health and prenatal-care experts are urging women to improve their health before conceiving.
The hope is that measures taken to bolster a woman's health prior to conception -- whether it's reaching an optimal weight, controlling a chronic disease or boosting overall nutritional health -- will improve the odds of having an uncomplicated pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Dr. Lorey H. Pollack, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre, N.Y., has some patients who are very informed and motivated to take better care of themselves before contemplating pregnancy. Others, though, come in pregnant and say, "By the way, I have diabetes; by the way, I have Lupus; by the way, I have high blood pressure, and they're kind of shocked to find out that's an issue when they're pregnant," he said.
Pollack blames the medical profession and the media for failing to get the word out.
But recommendations compiled by experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as more than 35 government, public and private partners may help to draw attention to the importance of preconception care.
Dr. Hani K. Atrash, associate director for program development at the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and co-author of the government report, said, "If a woman or couple has decided to conceive, then at least one pre-pregnancy visit is recommended, and the five most important things to do are":
Atrash was also co-editor of a special supplement of the Maternal and Child Health Journal, published last September, devoted entirely to the topic of preconception care.
The movement to intervene prior to conception is based on evidence linking certain factors, such as lack of folic acid, smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity, to unwanted pregnancy outcomes.
"Some of these risk factors have stronger associations with particular adverse outcomes than others," Atrash explained. "For instance, daily consumption of 400 micrograms of folic acid before or early in pregnancy can reduce the occurrence of neural tube defects," such as spina bifida.