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Motherhood 101: The benefits of prioritizing maternal health
Women's Health

Motherhood 101: The benefits of prioritizing maternal health

By Shannon Clark-Harris, RN, Clinical Director - Maternity Services | Methodist South Hospital
Posted: August 2, 2021

Pregnancy can be such an exciting journey. From telling friends and family the news of your pregnancy, to learning your baby’s gender and then preparing for baby’s arrival. All of these events contribute to your experience and your journey to motherhood.

While these things can keep you busy, your maternal health is equally important and should be a priority. 

Why is maternal health important during the early stages and throughout pregnancy?

Did you know that your blood volume almost doubles during pregnancy? This is just one example, but there are many other changes that your body instinctively reacts to in preparation to care for your baby.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said the following:

“For women who become pregnant, pregnancy is recognized as a window to future health because complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes mellitus, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and fetal growth restriction, are associated with risk of health complications later in life.” (Louis & Bryant, 2019)

Going to your prenatal visits is just as important as taking children to the pediatrician when they have health needs.

Sometimes we hear patients say, “I didn’t have any problems with my last pregnancy,” but it’s important to remember that every pregnancy is different and every baby is different. Knowing the current condition of your health can determine what factors your doctor would need to watch more closely.

What steps can I take to promote a healthy pregnancy?

Your diet is important to help you feel your best throughout your pregnancy (National Institute of Health, 2017).

Following a safe, healthy diet by limiting caffeine and taking prenatal vitamins like folic acid, is essential to promote maternal health during pregnancy.

Avoiding alcohol, drugs, tobacco and toxic substances is also important to prevent birth defects and keeping a healthy blood supply to baby during pregnancy.

Most importantly, keep all of your prenatal appointments and discuss any concerns with your doctor.

Does maternal health vary between women of different ethnicities?

Racial disparities can exist when it comes to maternal health. According to a study published in 2020, there is a clear difference in maternal death rates by ethnicity. Black and Native American women experience pregnancy-related deaths at a higher rate than women who are White, Latina or Asian.

In response to the recognition of these alarming numbers, many states are providing research and funding to support and treat maternal complications of labor such as preeclampsia, hemorrhage events as well as domestic violence issues. In our state, the Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care conducts quality improvement studies and provides resources directly to our patients such as blood pressure cuffs to take home and monitor your blood pressure when you leave the hospital.

As an organization, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare hospitals take part in these studies and work to increase awareness among our staff to provide the highest level of care in our area.


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Are there any risk factors that can increase difficulties during pregnancy and/or delivery?

Recent studies have shown that conditions like vitamin D3 deficiency and pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, bacterial vaginosis, impaired fetal skeletal formation, reduced bone mass and intrauterine growth restriction can contribute to difficulties during pregnancy and delivery.

Research studies have shown that “generally, Black women have lower levels of total vitamin D3 because their highly myelinated skin lowers the rate at which UVB radiation transmits through the skin and changes to vitamin D3.” (Israel, 2021)

While some ethnicities have a higher chance of having certain risk factors, pregnancy-related health conditions can affect women of any race, which is another reason to keep all prenatal appointments and discuss your concerns with your healthcare providers.

How can I best prepare for my pregnancy journey and labor and delivery?

Your pregnancy journey is yours and the memories of this special time will live with you forever.

Choose the healthcare team that best fits your vision of how you want to navigate this magical time. Make sure that you ask your doctor any questions you have before, during and after delivery. Don’t ever feel like any question is not important.

Don’t ignore your body. Even a constant headache that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medicine could be a sign that your doctor wants to know about.

Making your health a priority also prioritizes the health of your baby. Pregnancy provides a bonding experience that only you as a mother get to experience. Enjoy this special time with your baby and prepare to experience all that motherhood has to offer.

Are you interested in learning more about maternal health?

Join us for Methodist South Hospital's Mommy & Me Baby Expo on Saturday, August 7. Learn more here.

In This Article:

1. Artiga, S., Pham, O., Orgera, K., & Ranji, U. (2020, November 10). Racial disparities in maternal and infant health: An overview

2. Israel, G. (2021). Creating alternative healthcare systems to reduce birth disparities in the south. Mississippi Board of Nursing, Summer, 24–25.

3. Louis, J., Bryant, A., Ramos, D., Steube, A., & Blackwell, S. (2021). Interpregnancy care

4. What can i do to promote a healthy pregnancy? (2017) NIH.Gov

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