Preconception health refers to the health of women and men during their reproductive years, which are the years they can have a child. It focuses on taking steps now to protect the health of a baby they might have sometime in the future.
However, all women and men can benefit from preconception health, whether or not they plan to have a baby one day. This is because part of preconception health is about people getting and staying healthy overall, throughout their lives. In addition, no one expects an unplanned pregnancy. But it happens often. In fact, about half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned.
There have been important advances in medicine and prenatal care in recent years. Despite these advances, birth outcomes are worse in the United States than in many other developed countries. Many babies are born early or have low birthweight. Among some groups of people, the problems actually are getting worse. Preconception health and preconception health care can make a difference.
Preconception health care is the medical care a woman or man receives from the doctor or other health professionals that focuses on the parts of health that have been shown to increase the chance of having a healthy baby.
Preconception health care is different for every person, depending on his or her unique needs. Based on a person’s individual health, the doctor or other health care professional will suggest a course of treatment or follow-up care as needed. If your health care provider has not talked with you about this type of care―ask about it!
Preconception health is important for every woman―not just those planning pregnancy. It means taking control and choosing healthy habits. It means living well, being healthy, and feeling good about your life. Preconception health is about making a plan for the future and taking the steps to get there!
Preconception health is important for men, too. It means choosing to get and stay as healthy as possible―and helping others to do the same as well. As a partner, it means encouraging and supporting the health of your partner. As a father, it means protecting your children. Preconception health is about providing yourself and your loved ones with a bright and healthy future.
Preconception health is a precious gift to babies. For babies, preconception health means their parents took steps to get healthy before pregnancy. Such babies are less likely to be born early (preterm) or have a low birthweight. They are more likely to be born without birth defects or other disabling conditions.1 Preconception health gives babies the best gift of all―the best chance for a healthy start in life.
Ensuring preconception health is a great way to create a healthy family. The health of a family relies on the health of the people in the family. Taking care of your health now will help to ensure a better quality of life for yourself and your family in the coming years.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommendations to improve preconception health and health care—United States. MMWR Recommendations and Reports. 2006;55(RR-06):1–23.