Pregnancy Pathway, Preconditions — Behavior

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Please refer to Feb­ru­ary 5 entry for entire graph­ic. Today:  Behav­ioral Pre­con­di­tions to Preg­nan­cy.
bubblus_preconditions-behavior

Why do you sup­pose the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Nurse Mid­wives and the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Obste­tri­cians and Gyne­col­o­gists rec­om­mend the min­i­mum time between preg­nan­cies to be two years? Why is it crit­i­cal to eat foods high in B vit­a­mins (includ­ing folic acid) and cal­ci­um dur­ing the child­bear­ing years? How does your exer­cise reg­i­men in the six months pri­or to con­cep­tion affect your risk for some dis­or­ders of preg­nan­cy, such as preeclamp­sia?

Answer:  Your pre­con­cep­tion or inter­con­cep­tion behav­ior affects the course and out­come of your preg­nan­cy. As it turns out, it takes about two years for a mother’s body to replen­ish her stores between preg­nan­cies. Pri­or to a first preg­nan­cy, behav­ior in the six months lead­ing up to con­cep­tion has been shown to affect out­come.

Dur­ing preg­nan­cy, nutri­tion­al and func­tion­al resources must sup­port two beings in one body, one of whom is grow­ing at a very fast speed by bio­log­i­cal stan­dards (think cell time NOT com­put­er time). Essen­tial vit­a­mins and min­er­als (such as B vit­a­mins and cal­ci­um) are tak­en from the mother’s body — already in meta­bol­ic stress due to demands on the kid­neys and liv­er to clear tox­ins and fil­ter meta­bol­ic waste from the fetus as well as the moth­er.

Insur­ing that mater­nal stores of valu­able nutri­ents are ade­quate to pro­vide for both fetus and moth­er is a job that only the poten­tial moth­er can do. By eat­ing a bal­anced and col­or­ful diet of pro­teins, fruits and veg­eta­bles, whole grains and essen­tial fat­ty acids (omega 3’s and 6’s — fish, wal­nuts, olive oil, ava­ca­do, eggs), as well as ade­quate aer­o­bic exer­cise lead­ing up to and dur­ing preg­nan­cy, a woman improves her odds for a healthy infant. Smart behav­ior reduces her risk for con­di­tions that cause immune sys­tem and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­or­ders that dis­turb implan­ta­tion, blood pres­sure and blood flow to essen­tial organs.

Fur­ther, avoid­ing risky behav­iors that may lead to sys­temic infec­tions, meta­bol­ic syn­dromes or mal­nu­tri­tion lead­ing up to con­cep­tion is an aspect of behav­ior known as “risk-aver­sion” —  the abil­i­ty to avoid behav­iors that have neg­a­tive con­se­quences. Infec­tion at the time of con­cep­tion (to be dis­cussed in a future post), an extreme lifestyle (either seden­tary or anorex­ic), tox­ic food choic­es, drugs, tobac­co and alco­hol are all behav­iors that incur risk for poor preg­nan­cy out­comes, includ­ing pre­ma­tu­ri­ty and low birth weight — out­comes  on the rise in the U.S.

dtp_mover22As dis­cussed in the pre­vi­ous two posts, behav­ior is inter­twined with genet­ics and envi­ron­men­tal influ­ences. Hav­ing a cer­tain gene muta­tion or an envi­ron­men­tal risk may pre­dis­pose a woman to pos­si­ble prob­lems in preg­nan­cy or the devel­op­ment of cer­tain can­cers, but some behav­iors — espe­cial­ly exer­cise — may mit­i­gate this poten­tial or reduce the sever­i­ty or course of dis­ease. Behav­ior is the area in which we have the great­est con­trol. Exer­cise, healthy nutri­tion and risk aver­sion are the three areas in which women can exert con­trol over their des­tiny as moms-to-be. It’s a dif­fi­cult set-up. We live in a time of instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion of per­son­al acts. But, moth­er­hood is a long-term com­mit­ment to the bio­log­i­cal and psy­chic well­be­ing of a new human who is — and is not — us.