What is Preconception Health?
By Katherine Landgrave
What is preconception health? A couple of years ago, if I had looked at this word I would have probably focused on the conception part and would have been terrified at the word. As a 22 year old in graduate school, the idea of having a child is the furthest thing from my mind. I am a huge planner and have my next five years all mapped out. However, if there is anything I’ve learned from life, it’s that life tends to throw curve balls at you and things don’t always go according to plan. For instance, did you know that over half of pregnancies in the US are not planned? Of course no expects to have an “unplanned” pregnancy, but obviously it happens quite frequently. While having children is not a part of my five year plan, I need to remember that my plan isn’t always what will really happen.
So again, what exactly is preconception health? Preconception health refers to the health of women and men during their reproductive years, when they can have a child. So it’s a broad area of health that covers any woman or man during childbearing age. I think one of the things that surprised me most about this definition is that preconception health isn’t just about women, but about men too. Preconception health is about making sure women and men are becoming healthier for their future and for the future of their children.
For women, preconception health isn’t just about a woman’s pregnancy or planning for one. It means choosing healthy habits today, so that you will have a healthier life. It means planning for your future and taking steps to make that future a reality.
Preconception health for men is about staying healthy too. That may mean being active so you can be there for your children one day and protect them, or it may mean encouraging and supporting the health of your partner. It means being able to be healthy enough to provide for yourself and your family one day.
Preconception health is also about the health of our babies. The United States has some of the worst birth outcomes among developed countries. I know that I don’t want my future children to be born premature or to have any complications, so I want to do everything I can do today to protect the future of my children someday down the line.
So what can we do to focus on preconception health? Texas has started a campaign called “Someday Starts Now” that focuses on this exact topic. On their website www.somedaystartsnow.com they provide information for men and women in every life phase. They have different categories like “I don’t want or can’t have children”, “I’m not sure if I want children”, “I want to have a baby someday”, “I’m expecting a baby now”, “I’m already a mother”, “I’m finished having babies”, and even “My partner and I have lost a pregnancy or baby.” These seven categories cover a wide variety of life’s situations and provide tips on how to have a healthy body, healthy environment, and healthy mind. This campaign does a great job of getting women and men to start thinking about their future and making life plans for themselves.
One of my favorite parts of the campaign is the “life planning tool”.
In it you identify your goals for the future and write out how you are going to achieve those goals. This is something every woman should fill out today. As I mentioned before, I like outlining my plans. This tool helps me align my five year plan with my health goals and family plan. It starts me on the path to make sure the future is bright for the family I plan to have.
I’ve been working with the Healthy Babies Coalition and preconception health for four months now and I’ve come to realize how important it is for women and men everywhere. I don’t want to have a child right now, but I do want to have healthy children someday. Now I realize that I need to start taking care of myself today so I can bring a perfect little being into a healthy world someday in the future.
Katherine Landgrave is a graduate assistant for the McLennan County Public Health Department working with the Healthy Baby Coalition. She is also a graduate student at Baylor University working on her master of in public health. Katherine has a passion for working in the community and through this position has found an interest for working with maternal and child health. She hopes to one day go to medical school and continue helping improve birth outcomes and the overall health of all women.
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