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Prioritizing health before, during and after pregnancy

Last Modified: July 30, 2021

Women & Children


For women, maintaining good health is always important, but particularly during child-bearing years. We spoke with William Smith, MD, PPG – OB/GYN, about the things women should make their top priorities if they are considering motherhood.

What are the most important aspects of health for women in their 20s and 30s, leading up to a potential pregnancy?

I think women need to be well rounded in their mental, emotional, social, physical and spiritual health. All of these areas are important, particularly leading up to pregnancy.

What should a woman consider if she is trying to get pregnant?

Leading up to trying to get pregnant, she should try to become as healthy as she can. Focus on social habits, and try to refrain from tobacco and alcohol and avoid excessive caffeine, soft drinks, sugars and processed foods. Work on curbing overeating habits. Remember, the nutrients you take in will be the same nutrients your baby takes in. It’s your fuel and the baby’s.

Incorporate physical activities, drink around 6-8 glasses of water each day and strive for a healthy 6-8 hours of sleep each night.

What should the priorities be during pregnancy?

During pregnancy, studies have shown that those who connect with a provider and have 12-15 prenatal visits have better outcomes than those who do less than that. Establish yourself with a caring provider who is dedicated to helping comanage your pregnancy.

Make sure you pay attention to your mental health and communicate with your physician about what you’re feeling. So many are struggling with things like PTSD, depression, anxiety, or obsessive compulsive disorder, and need counseling and/or medication to manage their mental illness. Patients often stop taking their medications when they learn they are pregnant, but it’s best to speak with your provider so they can help you evaluate your need and make the appropriate adjustments.

What are some of the barriers to proper health for women?

Some women don’t get enough rest or have access or knowledge about healthy food. For some working women, it can be their hours. Maybe they’re forced to eat on the run or work third shift and can’t get adequate sleep.

When my patients come in we talk about their working conditions. I don’t want them working more than 40 hours per week, and if they are, I can assist them with communicating that to their employer. We also address the need for frequent breaks, a better schedule and any of the hurdles they might be experiencing in regard to their healthy pregnancy.  

How do health priorities shift after a woman has a baby?

We want mom to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight, but through a slow, gentle approach. She can introduce manageable exercise, healthy eating and plenty of rest to recover from the pregnancy and delivery.  

So many women are disappointed in their postpartum weight. They get frustrated when the weight doesn’t fall right off, but it came on gradually and it will need to come off gradually. If women resume their pre-pregnancy habits, they will get there. Weight loss can cause anxiousness or contribute to post-partum depression, so it’s imperative that you communicate with your provider.

What sort of complications can women face after baby?

We call the weeks following delivery the “fourth trimester,” because there are certainly still symptoms that need to be addressed. Your OB/GYN is responsible for your care for at least one year following the arrival of your baby.  

Pregnancy is a picture of future health. If we establish that a patient has diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy, that will likely carry on, so it’s a good opportunity to begin addressing these issues as early as possible.

What are the biggest takeaways for new parents?

The main thing I like to stress is what a great responsibility parenthood is for mom and dad. Whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle feed, you need to set your child up for a healthy future. We’re seeing more and more obesity in young children, so we know just how vital it is for parents to make healthy choices and pass them on to their kids.

I have a robin nest in my backyard with four little babies. Their nest blew down the other day in a storm and every time I tried to pull it back up, I’d have these four little mouths open, begging me to feed them. They were totally dependent on their mom. That is how it is for my patients. You can influence future generations and set them up for a healthy, bright future.

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