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Pregnancy and Reproductive Health

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Summer is here, and the Maternal, Child, and Adolescent Health Division wants to share ways to stay safe when temperatures climb.

Taking care of your own health is important during all stages of life. If having children is in your life plan, here are a few things you can do to prepare yourself.

(Click images below to learn more)

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Healthy You Checklist

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    Move your body at least 30 minutes every day - this helps with disease prevention and overall well-being
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    Take 400 mcg of folic acid​ everyday to encourage healthy brain and spine development in your baby
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    Manage and reduce stress, practice mindfulness or meditation, do something that gives you joy or connect with a friend
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    Manage your chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure
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    Plan meals and snacks ahead of time - this can make it easier to make healthy choices
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    Avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking, and talk with your health care provider about medications and other treatments that can help you take care of yourself and your baby
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    Connect with your health care team and get regular checkups
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    Test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - this protects you and your baby
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    Healthy relationships are important for overall health - if you are in an unhealthy relationship, seek help
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    Stay up to date on vaccines - vaccines teach your body how to protect itself from harmful disease and give your baby protection from day one
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    Aim for 7 hours of sleep or more - sleep helps you get sick less often, improves your mood, and can lower your risk of serious health conditions
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    Look after your mental health

Mental Health

 

An emotionally healthy parent can have a stronger relationship with their baby, which supports child development and family bonds.

Pregnancy and parenting can feel overwhelming. It's common for pregnant people and new parents to struggle with emotional and mental health.  Getting support is an important part of dealing with life challenges and taking care of yourself. You don't have to be in crisis to seek help.

  • Call or text 1-833-TLC-MAMA (1-833-852-6262) - 24/7, free, confidential hotline for pregnant people and new parents in English and Spanish
  • Ask for help. Don' t be afraid to ask for help from family and friends, whether it's caring for the baby or doing household chores.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and need immediate assistance or someone to talk to, please call or text 988. This can include having thoughts about harming yourself or your baby or having behaviors that prevent you from functioning on a day-to-day basis. 

Before Pregnancy

Couple before pregnancy
 
 

Preconception health refers to a person's physical, mental, emotional, social, and relational well-being before and between pregnancies.

  • Get regular checkups. Attending an annual 'Well Visit' with your health care provider can help prevent future health problems. Discuss how your medications or chronic conditions (like diabetes and high blood pressure) may impact a potential pregnancy.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections​​ to protect yourself and your future pregnancy.
  • Take 400 mcg of folic acid every day. When taken at least 1 month before pregnancy, folic acid can help prevent major birth​ defects of the brain and spine.
  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines are a safe way to protect yourself from harmful diseases and protect future pregnancies
  • Stop smoking  (PDF) and reduce how much alcohol you drink.
  • Get checked for tuberculosis.
  • If you plan to get pregnant again:  Keeping up with your healthy habits before becoming pregnant again will help ensure that all of your babies will have the best possible start.
    • Wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant again to give your body time to fully recover.
    • Contraceptio​n (birth control) can be used to space out and prevent unplanned pregnancies.
    • If you've had a premature birth in the past, ask your health care provider about reducing your risk for premature birth in your next pregnancy.
    • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections and follow up for treatment if you test positive. 

Apply for Medi-Cal​​​

Medi-Cal provides health care services for low-income individuals including families with children, seniors, persons with disabilities, foster care, pregnant women, and low-income people with specific diseases such as tuberculosis, breast cancer, or HIV/AIDS. You can apply for Medi-Cal by mail, in person, or dhcs.ca.gov/applyformedi-cal. ​

You might be eligible for CalFresh​​​!

CalFresh, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, provides monthly food benefits to qualifying individuals and families with low income. The amount of benefits a household receives is dependent on household size, countable income, and monthly expenses, such as housing and utilities. You can apply for CalFresh by mail, in person at your local county social services office, or benefitscal.com.

During Pregnancy

Doctor examing pregnant women in her third trimester
 
  • There are many types of health care providers who can support you during pregnancy.
    • Midwives provide medical, emotional, and informational care before, during, and after a birth. Midwives assist with delivery in hospitals, birth centers, and homes.
    • Doulas provide physical, emotional, and informational support before, during, and after pregnancy and birth. Doulas help you speak up for yourself and your preferences in health care systems.
    • Obstetricians provide medical and surgical care before, during, and after birth.
    • Find out if you are WIC eligible:

      Head to MyFamily.WIC.ca.gov

      Eligibility for WIC:

      • People who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or just had a baby in the past 6 months; or
      • Parent or caregiver with a child under the age of 5; and
      • Have low to medium income, or receive Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, or CalFresh; and
      • Live in California
      Lactation consultants,
      counselors, and support groups can help you with common breastfeeding and chestfeeding concerns. WIC has lactation consultants. See if you're eligible for WIC.
    • Mental Health therapists help individuals or groups manage stress and trauma, improve family and relationship issues, and cope with anxiety, depression and other difficulties. Appointments can take place in person, on the phone, or via video. Some services even offer support by text.
    • Psychiatrists treat mental health conditions using medications.
    • Registered Dietitians/Nutritionists provide nutrition counseling and develop custom nutrition plans for chronic health conditions to improve health at all stages of life.
  • Continue to take 400 mcg of folic acid to help prevent birth defects of the baby's brain and spine.
  • Avoid substance use. Talk to your health care provider if you drink, smoke, are taking opioids or other substances to explore available treatments and other supports.
  • California Prenatal Screening Program

     
    • The program screens for genetic conditions and birth defects.
    • All pregnant individuals in California are eligible for screening.
    • Medi-Cal and most private health insurance cover the fees for the testing and screening.
    Get prenatal screening
    You can get screened to find out if your baby is at risk of birth defects. Talk to your health care provider.
  • Test for gestational diabetesIf you have gestational diabetes, ask your health care provider to refer you to a RD/RDN or a diabetes specialist.  They can help you learn how to keep your blood sugars in control through diet and exercise and sometimes medication or insulin.
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs, like hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis, can harm the baby in the womb or pass to the baby during birth. Getting tested can prevent serious health conditions for you and your baby.
  • Get screened for tuber​culosis  (PDF) if you didn't get screened before pregnancy.
  • Stay up to date on your vaccinesYour baby receives disease immunity (protection) from you during pregnancy. Getting immunized during pregnancy helps protect your baby even after they are born.
  • Check for high blood pressure
    • Preeclampsia happens when a person who previously had normal blood pressure suddenly develops high blood pressure. It is a serious pregnancy complication that develops quickly. It can life-threatening and cause multi-organ failure if your blood pressure gets too high. It is important to let your health care provider know right away if you have a severe headache, blurred vision, or pain in your right upper abdomen. In California, as many as 1 in 14 pregnant people experience preeclampsia.
    • Chronic hypertension means having high blood pressure before you get pregnant or before 20 weeks of pregnancy. People who have chronic hypertension can also get preeclampsia in the second or third trimester of pregnancy.
    • Gestational Hypertension happens when you only have high blood pressure during pregnancy and do not have protein in your urine or other heart or kidney problems. It is typically diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy or close to delivery. Gestational hypertension usually goes away after you give birth. However, some women with gestational hypertension have a higher risk of developing chronic hypertension in the future. 
      Couple cooking nutritous meal
  • Ask about medications. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about any medications you are taking. Some are safe to take during pregnancy while others should be avoided. These include prescription, over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements. Certain medications can cause birth defects or other complications.
  • Gain a healthy amount of weight. Gaining a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy is important to support a child's health and adult health in the next generation.  Gaining an inappropriate amount of weight during pregnancy increases the risk of the occurrence of adverse health outcomes for the individuals and the infant.
  • Stay safe in extreme heat. Being in extreme heat can increase the risk for serious pregnancy complications and harm a baby's development. Learns actions to stay safe.​

Pregnancy loss may occur at any time during the pregnancy. It is important to receive support when you are going through a pregnancy loss. Resources like Share Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support and Hand Support can provide assistance through phone, in-person, and online support group meetings. Doula care for pregnancy loss is covered through Medi-Cal Doula-Directory (ca.gov) (PDF). Postpartum International Support provides a variety of resources for parents experiencing loss and grief in pregnancy and postpartum.

After Pregnancy

Family after pregnancy
 

This information is important for both the parent who gave birth and the non-birthing parent. The non-birthing parent can play a key role in keeping the birthing parent and the baby health, happy, and safe.

  • Attend your postpartum care visit(s).
    Ask your health care provider any questions you might have. Complications can occur weeks after pregnancy.
  • Attend your infant's well child visit(s).
    Routine care after your baby is born is important to make sure your baby remains healthy and is growing and developing normally.
  • Get newborn screening.

    California Newborn Screening Program

    • Safe and simple test that screens all babies for many serious but treatable genetic disorders.
    • Identifies babies with rare and serious disorders early so that treatment can be started right away.
    • Babies born are screened with a blood test 12-48 hours after birth.

    By law, all babies born in California have a blood test done by heel prick to test for newborn screening soon after birth. The Newborn Screening Program (NBS) screens for 80 different disorders so that treatment can be started right away.
  • Continue to manage your chronic conditions:
    • If you had gestational diabetes or high-blood pressure during your pregnancy, it is important to follow up with your health care provider. You'll want to continue monitoring your sugar levels and blood pressure. There is a risk you may still have high blood pressure or high sugar levels even though your baby is born.
    • If you were diagnosed with hepatitis C during pregnancy, get treated after pregnancy
  • Get treated. Make sure to follow up for treatment if you are diagnosed with any sexually transmitted infections.
  • Try to breastfeed or chestfeed your child for the first six months or more.
    Family with kids
    • While breastfeeding and chestfeeding is not possible for all families, it is known to benefit both the parent's and infant's health. If you chose to breastfeed or chestfeed, doing so for 6 or more months has the greatest benefit. It reduces your risk of different cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
    • Not all parents are able to breastfeed or chestfeed. That's okay! You can safely prepare FDA-approved formula by following the directions on the label.  
    • Visit WIC,  WIC's Breastfeeding Handout (PDF), information on donor milk and  Building Your Milk Supply for more information.​
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