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Sexual Health Week 2017
"Let's Talk about Sex: The best start in life"
There is a clear link between a mother’s health before pregnancy and her baby’s health. We know that healthy women and men are more likely to have healthy babies who grow into healthy children1. Therefore, thinking about, and improving, your health before conception increases your chances of a safe pregnancy, a thriving baby and a rewarding parenthood.
Preconception health is about preparing well for pregnancy, whether for your first pregnancy or your next pregnancy. What you do, or neglect to do, before the pregnancy test says ‘yes’ really matters. The choices you make and the actions you take can make a big difference to you and your baby. That is true even if you have not paid much attention to when would be the right time for you to become a mother. However, preconception health is not just for women, it is important for men too. There are steps that future fathers could and should take before creating a baby, for his own health and for the health of his partner and their baby.
Why promote preconception health?
Many things that are risky for your baby’s health, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, taking drugs (prescribed or not), being overweight, being very stressed and some medical conditions, can all make an impact before you even know you are pregnancy. That is why planning and preparing for pregnancy are so important.
However, not all the negative possibilities of pregnancy are inevitable. Many miscarriages, stillbirths, too early or too small babies, birth defects and other problems can be prevented and the odds of a good outcome can be improved. But good outcomes should not be left to luck alone. Doing what you can, and getting help if required, to become as health and ready as possible is hugely beneficial for yourself, your partner and your baby.
And help is available for you in Dumfries and Galloway. Your GP practice, Sexual Health clinic and other health and social care professionals are available to support you to consider your health before pregnancy.
Traditionally, health promotion for pregnancy begins in the antenatal period, most often from first contact with Maternity Services at around 8 to 12 weeks of pregnancy. And unfortunately it is not uncommon for women and men to continue negative health behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol through this important stage of early foetal development. Getting ready for pregnancy is as important as getting medical attention once you know you are pregnant.
Who promotes preconception health?
The concept that “every contact is a health improvement opportunity”2 illustrates that all service providers who have contact with women and men of reproductive age can make a significant impact on optimising preconception health. By utilising formal and informal opportunities at every contact to promote health and wellbeing and to support women and men to make healthy lifestyle choices, the health and wellbeing of women and men who plan a pregnancy, as well as those who find themselves with an unintended pregnancy, can be maximised.
The reproductive capacity for women spans nearly four decades and even longer for men. During this time, reproductive intentions and risks are likely to change; therefore preconception care needs to be delivered across the life course.
What are the preconception health risk indicators for adverse pregnancy outcome?
Contact your GP, Practice Nurse or other relevant health professional for further advice.
What is the aim of the Sexual Health Awareness Week?
The aim of this year’s Sexual Health Awareness Week is to raise awareness of preconception health across Dumfries & Galloway to enable women and men to improve their health before a pregnancy is conceived.
What are the objectives?
The objectives of this year’s Sexual Health Awareness Week are to:
- raise awareness amongst the public that healthy women and men are more likely to have healthy babies that grow into healthy children.
- raise awareness of preconception health amongst professionals in partner agencies through the dissemination of the Preconception Health Toolkit.
- encourage and enable staff across all agencies to raise the issue of preconception health with their service users and sign post when professional care is required.
What are the intended outcomes?
People in Dumfries and Galloway will have improved knowledge of preconception health and take steps to improve their health before a pregnancy is conceived.
What resources are available to support partners to engage with their clients and service users around preconception health?
- Preconception Health Toolkit
- What do you know about preconception Health: Mini Quiz
- Get ready for a healthy pregnancy poster:
- Prepared for pregnancy – Report 2016
Additional sources of information
1 Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecology (2008) Standards for Maternity Care Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; London
2 Woods, K (2008) CEL 14 Health Promoting Health Service: Action in Acute Care Settings The Scottish Government: Edinburgh