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In newly released recommendations, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) emphasize that all women of reproductive age who have been pregnant (even if you lost your baby to miscarriage or had an abortion) need "interpregnancy" care.
What's interpregnancy care? It's care that will help you stay mentally and physically healthy over the long term and increase your chances of a successful pregnancy if you decide to have another child.
That may sound obvious, but it reflects a new approach by the medical community, which is trying to reduce the United States' dismal maternal mortality rate and ensure that women's well-being is treated as equally important to that of their babies.
Interpregnancy care can include breastfeeding support (breastfeeding is good for you as well as your child), reproductive planning, and depression screening. It can help with weight loss, and even provide assistance with getting out of an abusive relationship or securing adequate food or housing. It also includes regular screening for certain chronic diseases, especially if you've had a high-risk pregnancy.
If you have or had preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or high blood pressure during your pregnancy, ACOG recommends annual visits to both a gynecologist and a primary care physician for chronic disease screening. That's because, even though these conditions often resolve themselves once your baby is born, they increase your risk for future health problems such as heart disease, Type II diabetes, and chronic high blood pressure.
Ideally, your doctor will work with you to develop a postpartum care plan while you are still pregnant.
"We are looking at pregnancy as a window to the womans future health," said Dr. Judette Louis, a coauthor of the document. "The interpregnancy period is an opportunity for women's health care providers to address complications and medical issues that develop during pregnancy, assess a woman's mental and physical well-being, and optimize her health along her life course."
It's all too easy to only focus on the health of your baby, but it makes sense, and it's essential, for moms to focus on their own care with the same kind of vigilance.
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