An article in today’s New York Times quotes public health experts who tell women that they ought to start thinking in terms of “preconception care” as opposed to prenatal care if they want healthy babies. The reasoning is that by the time women know they are pregnant, it is already be too late to avert birth defects: “For many women the most important doctor’s visit may be the one that takes place before a pregnancy is conceived.” Last May folks at the division of reproductive health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), advised that women ought to be treated, and treat themselves, as if they were about to conceive a child. But women are to be assured that not ALL women ought to be treated thus, only those between their first menstrual period and up until menopause.
Family planning, child spacing and encouraging young people to develop a reproductive life plan is sound advice given that in the US half of all pregnancies are unplanned and preparing for a healthy pregnancy can require behavioral changes that may take months. But a policy whose goal is safe uterine environments ought not to be centered on warning women that they could get pregnant at any time in their reproductive life so they had better act as if pregnancy was imminent. Sexual relationship education, birth control access, STD care, battered women’s safe houses, environmental and occupational safety, etc. etc. etc. factor in when considering what makes for a healthy pregnancy.