07.13.12 Can you have a healthy baby without prenatal care?
We’ve been getting some interesting emails and Facebook comments lately with a similar theme. Take this one, for example:
hi! im 7months pregnant. its my first pregnancy, im worried i havnt been visitn d doctor of the clinic. what can i do 2make my baby a healthy baby? and what are the consequences of not seeing the doctor? please i need help.
Or this one:
I'm still on da run en having ground since i was preggy! wat's da matter of taking care of a baby coz i really don't have a good check-up.
I’m thinking from the text-speak and dialect these women aren’t Americans and they’re facing issues most mothers don’t have to deal with, but over the years I’ve heard from countless women who aren’t getting prenatal care. Their wide reasons include:
- They can’t afford it,
- They don’t have transportation,
- There’s no clinic nearby,
- They’re afraid of doctors,
- It’s against their religion,
- They’re on drugs,
- They’re prostitutes,
- Their husbands won’t let them,
- Their doctor was mean to them,
- Their other children were taken away from them,
- They don’t have insurance and no doctor will see them,
- They want a natural birth and their doctor isn’t into that,
- They are traveling, relocating, hiding out…
The list goes on and on, but every woman who isn’t getting prenatal care is, on some level, feeling frightened and worried; even those who intentionally avoid medical care. They all have one big wish in common – to have a healthy baby.
If they’re writing us they know they should be getting prenatal care. They know some women and babies have health problems during pregnancy and they want to make sure they’re not among those. It’s easy to judge and shake a finger, but try not to. Prenatal care is easy if you have enough money, access to social services, insurance, transportation and all the other factors that get a woman into a healthcare practice. It’s not easy if you’re young, broke, uninsured, an immigrant, live in a rural area or have a troubled past and a few seriously bad habits.
Plenty of patients blow through the emergency room doors and blast out a baby without having had a lick of prenatal care. Very often, they’ve been using drugs (don’t judge – they know they should’ve quit, but they didn’t. Walk a mile with them. It’s heartbreaking) or they have an open file with the Department of Children’s Services. They know their only chance to take that baby home is to fly under the radar and hope they can get out of the hospital quickly. That never pans out for them exactly as planned, but bottom line: they’re mothers who love their babies.
So, how can women have a healthy baby if they don’t get prenatal care? Of course, my first piece of advice is: GET PRENATAL CARE. Contact your county health department and ask where you can go. Prenatal care is available, even for uninsured women and it’s a extremely important.
It won’t be the doctor or midwife who guarantees the health of mother or baby though. Their job is to support healthy practices, determine when there are health problems, treat those problems when possible, minimize risks and provide guidance, education and structure so patients can be as healthy as possible.
But health is not a product or a service available for purchase. Health is something a person already has or doesn’t have. They can’t buy it, borrow it or rent it. It’s something each person creates and supports in her own body. Obviously, no two bodies are alike and not all are healthy. Not everyone has the same tools, products, caregivers and services to support it. You have to start where you are and do the best you can, especially if you’re pregnant, because as a mother, you will heavily influence your baby’s health.
What do you have to do to be healthy? There’s no mystery here:
- You are what you eat. Eat crap and you’ll have crappy health. Eat well and you’ll have good health. You are also what you breathe, drink and consume, which includes the big-ticket vices: booze, drugs and smokes, plus pollution and chemicals. Take in the best possible substances to support your body and mind so it can function to its’ best potential.
- Work the machine. Machines that sit around and don’t do the job they were made for eventually break down. The gears won’t turn, the pumps won’t pump, and the cranes won’t lift. For the human machine (your body), that means exercise. Without it, your heart won’t pump, your joints and muscles won’t move and lift, you won’t heal and your immune system won’t protect you from disease. The more you work it, the better your health.
- Respect your brain. It’s the most sensitive, miraculous, fragile and intricate computer system invented, but it’s delicate. If you overload it, it backfires as stress and disease. Protect it and give it the care and rest it needs, it will power your entire life. That means sleep, stress reduction, and periods of deep relaxation and meditation. That’s not just some hippie-Zen-new-agey thing. That’s a scientific fact.
That’s how you create and support health. That doesn’t, however, minimize the importance of prenatal care. Get some. Without it, you won’t know you’re the woman who has high blood pressure, which might cause your baby to be born prematurely. You won’t know you have diabetes or that your placenta isn’t attached properly to the uterus. Prenatal care means knowledge.
Now, for those women who Facebooked us, I hope wherever you live, you find a safe place to deliver. And about that cell phone you used to contact us, a lot of countries are using cell phone technology to assist prenatal care. Here are two resources that might help you hook up with the care you need:
- Johnson & Johnson has teamed up with the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and launched text4baby, the first free health text messaging service in the U.S to help pregnant women and new moms.
- CARE (a global humanitarian organization) is collaborating with governments of many countries and working with partners to conduct cell phone-based antenatal and postnatal visits. Trained birth attendants use cell phones to make referrals and arrange emergency transport to health centers and hospitals.
On a different note one of my favorite websites. EveryMotherCounts.org, (an advocacy and education site for mothers all over the world, founded by Christy Turlington Burns) is celebrating the Summer of Sisterhood with their Summer Bucket List – another brilliant way they’re connecting women here and abroad. I did a guest blog for them called “Get Real Summer Survival Tips for Pregnant Women.” Check it out.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.