Reproductive Health Is About More Than Babies

September 14, 2020

The anticipated birth of a child comes with a host of prenatal doctor visits, vitamin supplements, dietary changes and wellness checks to ensure the safe delivery of a healthy baby. But reproductive health begins long before pregnancy and its importance isn’t just for moms. Dads need a healthy reproductive system for their part in the process.

But even if a baby isn’t part of your plan today, it doesn’t mean you should disregard your reproductive health. The female and male reproductive systems are a complex combination of organs and hormone- producing glands. The operations of these systems change as you age and there are different requirements for keeping them healthy at different stages of life. Sexually transmitted diseases, environmental factors, or injuries can have a detrimental effect on reproductive health. And that could be devastating if you plan to become a parent.

 

What to Watch For

Section 1Reproductive disorders affect millions of Americans every year. As you might imagine, the majority of those disorders affect women. They bear the greatest burden during pregnancy, so the risk to their reproductive health is higher, particularly when there’s a baby growing inside.

Female disorders include:

  • Early or delayed puberty
  • Endometriosis, where tissue that normally lines the womb grows outside it
  • Low breastmilk production
  • Infertility or reduced fertility
  • Heavy or irregular menstrual cycles
  • Ovaries producing more testosterone than normal
  • Problems during pregnancy — gestational diabetes, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, etc.
  • Uterine fibroids

Male disorders include:

  • Impotence
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count

 

Possible Causes: STIs and More

Section 2Some sexually transmitted infections have been shown to have an effect on fertility if left untreated. Chlamydia and gonorrhea are two of the leading causes of preventable infertility. Left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can spread to the uterus and fallopian tubes and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which may cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes, uterus and surrounding tissues potentially leading to infertility.

Even if you’re pregnant, you can still contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI), so it’s important to get treatment to improve the chances for a safer pregnancy and delivery for mom and baby. Problems during pregnancy like low birth weight, premature rupture of membranes, or premature labor have been linked to untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea. Untreated gonorrhea has also been linked to miscarriages. Newborns passing through the birth canal can develop eye infections when exposed to chlamydia or gonorrhea, and lung infections if exposed to chlamydia.

Even environment can play a big role in some reproductive disorders. Exposure to lead has been linked to reduced fertility in both men and women. Some chemicals used to make plastics, herbicides, flame retardants, and even liquid body wash can disrupt the production of hormones and contribute to problems with puberty, fertility, and pregnancy.

 

HPV: A Threat to Women and Men

section 3Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the United States, affecting 79 million Americans in their late teens and early 20s. HPV types are numerous, and HPV usually goes away without causing any health problems. When HPV lingers, the results can be genital warts and cancer.

A two-dose vaccine for girls and boys, ideally starting at age 11, has become common practice. But even teens and young adults as old as 26 are encouraged to get vaccinated. The vaccine is so effective that in just 10 years after it was recommended, certain HPV infections fell by 86% in girls between the ages of 14 to 19, and 71% in women in their early 20s.

Women who are pregnant and have HPV can develop genital warts that will increase in number and size during pregnancy and could complicate a vaginal delivery. In rare instances, the mother’s infection has been linked to noncancerous growths in the newborn’s larynx.

 

It’s in Your Control

Section 4Having a healthy reproductive system is vital if you ever decide to become a parent. The best time to do that is when you and your partner are ready. Planned pregnancies typically result in healthier babies and fewer medical problems for mom.

 

We’re Here for You

Section 5AltaMed can help with the development of a reproductive plan, offer counseling, provide pregnancy testing, birth control (until you’re ready), or referrals to a fertility specialist. We are here for you so you can get ready for the changes that come with giving birth.

AltaMed is also committed to keeping women healthy at every stage of their lives, offering information on birth control, safe sex, STI and HIV tests and treatment, pap and HPV tests. Call (888) 499-9303 for more information or to make an appointment.

 

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Prenatal Care is Good for Moms and for Babies

November 07, 2018

Even in this modern day and age, the ability to grow a little human being inside you is still magical. 

Whether you’re having your first baby or your fourth, getting care early can help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery. 
 

Start Before You’re Even Pregnant!
couple on bed

If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, ask your doctor about a preconception visit. The preconception visit focuses on your health history and habits, with the goal of giving you personalized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations so you have the best chance for an easy, carefree pregnancy. 

At the preconception visit, you should tell your doctor about any prescription drugs or herbal remedies you’re taking. If you have a health condition like diabetes or high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend certain foods and vitamins and getting your condition under control before you start trying to have a baby. 

Before you even see a doctor, here are a few good health tips to follow:

  • Most women should start taking a folic acid supplement at least one month before you start trying to get pregnant. Folic acid can help prevent birth defects of the brain stem or spinal cord.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • With your doctor’s approval, get regular exercise.
  • Excessive caffeine and consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and use of illegal substances can hurt your chances of conception and are harmful to the baby during pregnancy. 
  • Avoid exposure to substances like lead and radiation.

Once You’re Pregnant
sonogram

Even if you’re not sure you’re pregnant, visit your doctor. Prenatal care can drastically reduce your risk of complications, which is why it’s important to see your doctor on a regular basis. 

Prenatal visits usually include a physical exam, weight checks, and having your urine checked. Depending on the stage of the pregnancy, your doctor may also check your blood and perform imaging tests, such as ultrasound exams, to check on your baby’s health. 

Prenatal visits are your time to ask questions about your pregnancy. Make notes as you think of them and bring them in – no question is too small, especially when it comes to the health of you and your baby.

AltaMed is Here for You!
prenatal class

AltaMed offers moms-to-be services that support their physical and mental wellbeing. Your doctor can tell you which services are appropriate for you.

  • Regular and frequent checkups, the whole time you’re pregnant
  • Classes and one-on-one information about pregnancy, childbirth, baby care, and breastfeeding 
  • How to apply for financial help and resources such as Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and WIC
  • Help with cutting down or quitting smoking, drinking, or using drugs
  • Counseling on problems or family issues you may have
  • Referral to community agencies that can provide additional help and services


From even before you get pregnant, all through your pregnancy, delivery, and after, AltaMed is dedicated to helping your baby grow up, healthy and strong. We want to be your first stop, and your first choice, for your entire family.
 

How Do I Know if a C-Section is Right for Me?

May 01, 2019

You may have planned for a vaginal birth, but something changed. Your baby is in the breech position or unexpected problems started during labor, and your doctor tells you that you need a cesarean section (C-section). How should you prepare? How do you know if you’re making the right choice? 

We have put together this outline highlighting some of the benefits and risks of C-sections to help you make an informed decision if your doctor asks you to consider having one. It will also help you advocate for yourself and your baby.
 

C-Sections: When You Should Consider One

Mom and a newborn baby

If you search online, you’ll find plenty of advice telling you that vaginal births are safer than C-sections for women and babies. But C-sections may be vital or even life-saving in certain cases, and it’s important to know about those possibilities.

  • A C-section may be the safest choice for you and your baby if:
  • Your baby is sideways
  • The placenta is covering the cervix
  • The baby’s heart rate is not normal
  • A vaginal delivery could be unsafe for either of you


C-Sections: When It Might Not Be the Best Option

Mom in surgery room

Women have gone through pregnancy, labor, and delivery for thousands of years – safely, in most cases. While C-sections are safer for mothers and babies in certain high-risk situations, most women will be safer with a vaginal birth. 

Even when they’re necessary, C-sections carry the same risks as any major surgery, including infection, injury, and severe bleeding. Recovery after a C-section is long and may be more difficult than with a vaginal birth. C-sections can also cause risks and complications in future pregnancies. 

You can push back if your doctor recommends a C-section for any of these reasons:

  • Your doctor believes the baby will be large
  • Labor is slow but you and your baby are doing well
  • Progress has stopped but there are no concerns with the health of you or your child

 

Advocating for Yourself

Pregnant woman in her doctor appointment

Talk to your doctor, your birth team, and your family and let them know that you only want a C-section if it is necessary for medical reasons. If a C-section is suggested for you, don’t be afraid to ask questions and get the answers you need to make the right choice. Some questions you may want to ask are:

  • What are the benefits of a C-section in my situation?
  • Could there be any problems or risks if I choose to continue with a vaginal birth?
  • What are my chances for severe risks?
  • Are the risks the same if I had a C-section?
  • How likely am I to get injured or sick during a C-section?

 

The Big Takeaway

Pregnant woman and her doctor

Don’t let anyone talk you into doing something that makes you uncomfortable, especially having a potentially risky surgery. Know your options, do your research in advance, and be clear about what you want.

When making such a personal decision, it’s important that you can communicate with your doctor and you feel like you’re both on the same team. Our doctor finder tool can help you find an OB/GYN who speaks your preferred language and is close to home or work. We want you to feel comfortable with your doctor and be confident that you’re making the right decisions together. 

To learn more about the pros and cons of C-sections, as well as some of the realities of the surgery, visit MyBirthMatters. This helpful site was put together by the California Maternal Quality Care Collective, an organization dedicated to improving health care outcomes for mothers and infants.