Sunday, May 12, is Mothers Day, and Health Net, Inc. (NYSE: HNT) is marking this global commemoration by helping to increase awareness regarding the importance of preconception health for women planning to become mothers.
The first step toward having a healthy baby is for the future mom herself to be healthy before conception occurs, says Jonathan Scheff, M.D., chief medical officer for Health Net, Inc. Thats why Health Net is stressing the crucial role that preconception health plays for women who are actively planning a pregnancy, or who intend to become pregnant in the next few years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), preconception care can improve birth outcomes, including reducing the number of babies born prematurely or who have low birth weights.
With an eye toward increasing the odds of having a healthy baby, the CDC recommends the following preconception steps:
- Make a reproductive life plan Preconception health focuses on actions that you can take before and between pregnancies to maximize the chances of having a healthy baby. Toward this end, its recommended that serious thought be given to your goals for having or not having children.
- Checkup With your reproductive life plan in hand or at least in mind talk to your doctor about such topics as your health history, any medical conditions that could affect your pregnancy, any previous pregnancy problems, your medications, beneficial vaccinations and steps you can take before pregnancy to prevent certain birth defects.
- Medical conditions If you have any medical conditions including arthritis, diabetes, eating disorders, high blood pressure, phenylketonuria, seizure disorders, sexually transmitted diseases and thyroid disease it is essential that you discuss these with your doctor to help get them under control prior to pregnancy.
- Lifestyle behaviors Smoking, drinking alcohol and using street drugs can cause premature birth, birth defects and infant death. If youre trying to get pregnant and are not able to stop engaging in these behaviors, your doctor can refer you to counseling, treatment and other support services.
- Medications Taking certain medications during pregnancy including some prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as dietary or herbal supplements can cause serious birth defects. Before becoming pregnant, discuss with your doctor which medications could be harmful.
- Vaccinations Talk with your doctor about which vaccinations are recommended before you become pregnant, during pregnancy or following delivery.
- Folic acid Take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, which can help prevent some birth defects.
- Toxic substances and environmental contaminants Avoid toxic substances such as synthetic chemicals, metals, fertilizer, bug spray, and cat or rodent droppings. These substances can damage the reproductive systems of both men and women, and can make it more difficult to get pregnant.
- Weight Women who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for pregnancy complications, as well as for developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Women who are underweight also are at risk for serious health problems. If you are underweight, overweight or obese, talk with your doctor about how to reach and maintain a healthy weight prior to pregnancy.
- Family history Share your familys health history with your doctor. Based on this information, he or she may recommend taking certain precautions, such as undergoing genetic counseling.
As soon as a woman knows shes pregnant, said Scheff, the next important step is to make her first prenatal appointment. How women take care of themselves during pregnancy also is important to their health and the health of their baby.
One step that pregnant women can take is both free and simple, and thats why Health Net is working to increase awareness of an innovative program called text4baby. Spearheaded by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, text4baby delivers health information during pregnancy and throughout a babys first year via personalized text messages based on a pregnant womans due date or her babys date of birth. Messages focus on a variety of critical health topics, including immunizations, nutrition, mental health, oral health and safe sleep. Text4baby also connects participating women to prenatal and infant-care services.
Health Net was the first health plan in California to partner with text4baby and provide statewide outreach, starting in 2010. The company also was one of the first text4baby health plan partners in Arizona and Oregon. Anyone can sign up for the service by texting BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411. For additional information about the program, visit http://www.text4baby.org.
Medical Advice Disclaimer
The information provided is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your medical condition and follow your health care providers instructions.
About Health Net
Health Net, Inc. is a publicly traded managed care organization that delivers managed health care services through health plans and government-sponsored managed care plans. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable. Health Net provides and administers health benefits to approximately 5.4 million individuals across the country through group, individual, Medicare (including the Medicare prescription drug benefit commonly referred to as Part D), Medicaid, U.S. Department of Defense, including TRICARE, and Veterans Affairs programs. Through its subsidiaries, Health Net also offers behavioral health, substance abuse and employee assistance programs, managed health care products related to prescription drugs, managed health care product coordination for multi-region employers, and administrative services for medical groups and self-funded benefits programs. For more information on Health Net, Inc., please visit Health Nets website at www.healthnet.com.
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