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Women Veterans Health Care

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Health Awareness Campaigns: Preconception Care

A Healthy Pregnancy Begins with a Healthy You

Women who are healthy before becoming pregnant have healthier pregnancies and give birth to healthier babies. It is important for you and your provider to address any health issues and questions before you get pregnant.

Not everyone may be trying to get pregnant or want to become pregnant. However, almost half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. Therefore, whether you are trying to get pregnant or just thinking about it, it is never too late to be aware of your overall health and prepare yourself for a safe and healthy pregnancy.

VA is committed to making sure that you have access to the full range of reproductive health services including preconception care.

What is a preconception care-check up?

Preconception care can occur over several visits. These visits are to discuss your health before your pregnancy. Your health care provider will ask you about the foods you eat (nutrition), history of smoking, drugs or alcohol use, your weight, and use of medications that may be safe or unsafe to take during pregnancy. You may be asked about you and your partner’s family genetic history to see if genetic screening is needed. If you are not planning pregnancy right away, your provider may ask about your family planning needs.

Reproductive Life Plan

Thinking about your goals for having or not having children and how to achieve these goals is called a reproductive life plan. There are many kinds of reproductive life plans. Your plan will depend on your personal goals and dreams. Download and utilize the Reproductive Life Plan. This document will serve as a guide for you as you plan for your future. Click here for additional information about planning a pregnancy.

If you are not ready for pregnancy

Contraception (birth control, family planning) is important to consider if you are not planning to get pregnant immediately. Preventing pregnancy when you are not ready to be pregnant is an important part of preconception health. Work with your healthcare provider to choose contraception that is right for you. VA offers contraception care. Speak to your provider about which methods are best suited to you and your lifestyle.

  • Click here for Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) information about contraception.
  • Click here for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information about contraception and its effectiveness.
  • Click here for CDC preconception health information designed to improve the health of women and babies by promoting preconception health and healthcare.

Preconception Health Checklist

There are many ways to become a healthier you before pregnancy. The following checklist contains some of the first steps to stay healthy before getting pregnant. These ways are also important to your overall health even if you choose not to have a baby.

  • Eat a low fat diet.
  • Exercise regularly (for 30 minutes, at least five days a week).
    • For help with diet and exercise, VA established the MOVE! weight management Program to help Veterans achieve their goals. Click here for more information.
  • Get adequate sleep (seven or eight hours a night for most people).
  • Start taking a prenatal vitamin that contains 400 mcg to 800 mcg of folic acid.
  • Do not take any illegal drugs or any legal drugs that have not been prescribed for you.
  • Discuss family planning and birth control with your healthcare provider.
  • Manage and reduce stress.
  • Discuss with your health care provider how health problems that you or your family members may have affect or are affected by pregnancy.
  • Address social support concerns you may have, including domestic violence.
  • If you have had any problems with prior pregnancies, discuss them with your healthcare provider.
  • Address hazards in your home or workplace that could affect pregnancy.
  • Stop drinking alcohol.
  • Quit smoking. Click here for more information.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about any other medical or mental health conditions you may be concerned about.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about medicines you use, including prescription, over-the-counter and herbal or natural supplements.

Resources

  • Contact your Women Veterans Program Manager for a Preconception Care Booklet or e-Guide.
  • For tips on pregnancy and medicines, download the Medicine and Pregnancy Fact Sheet (English Version) or the Medicine and Pregnancy Fact Sheet (Spanish Version)
  • Use medicines wisely. You are encouraged to read the label for your medications, understand the side-effects, ask questions and keep a record of medicines you use. The FDA provides a record-keeping pocket book you can utilize to keep a record of medicines you are currently taking. Contact your Women Veterans Program Manager to obtain a copy of the English or Spanish version of the “My Medicines” pocketbook.
  • Stay informed. The FDA’s Office of Women’s Health has partnered with text4baby, a free service of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. Those signed up for text4baby will receive three free messages per week throughout pregnancy, and until baby’s first birthday. For more information, contact your Women Veterans Program Manager.
  • Watch the FDA “Resources for You and Your Baby” video to find out helpful tips during your pregnancy.
  • Healthy Pregnancy Poster: Version A
    Dimensions: 11x17", (762 KB, PDF)
    Dimensions: 8x11'', (757 KB, PDF)

    Thumbnail of Healthy Pregnancy Poster: Version A

    Healthy Pregnancy Poster: Version B
    Dimensions: 11x17", (762 KB, PDF)
    Dimensions: 8x11'', (757 KB, PDF)

    Thumbnail of Healthy Pregnancy Poster: Version B

    *By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site.
    †VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked Web site.