Ensuring that children are born healthy to caring parents who have the ability to provide safe, stable, and nurturing relationships helps them build a strong foundation to ensure their success in life. More than half of pregnancies are unplanned to women struggling with health and other issues that threatens the health and well-being of their baby. Families need access to maternal and paternal health care that will support their decisions about when they are best capable of raising a child.
Before pregnancy is the optimal time for women to establish healthy lifestyles (i.e., address obesity, diabetes and chronic diseases; quit smoking and other toxic substances), and prepare mentally and physically for pregnancy. The pregnancy period is often a time of unique receptivity when moms can be encouraged to adopt healthy lifestyles and reduce risks that impact the trajectory of the family. Science shows that maternal stress crosses the placenta to the baby causing prematurity and low birth weight, which are high risks for maltreatment, developmental delays, and lifelong disabilities. Domestic violence is highest during pregnancy and the year afterwards. Racial disparities in birth outcomes are still twice the rate for blacks as whites.
All families want the best lives for their children even if they lack the knowledge, capacity and resources to be good parents. The pregnancy period offers a critical window of opportunity to build parenting capacity and self-sufficiency.