Making the Most of Mother's Day

 
Dr. Gary Grosel, Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare of Illinois

Mother's Day is part of the springtime cycle of renewal and rebirth.

It's also an ideal time to think about ways to help improve the health of women in Illinois and nationwide, and honor the important role they play in their families' well-being. Promoting the health of women, infants and children is a fundamental priority for our county, especially efforts to reduce the number of women and babies who die before, during or after childbirth.

The U.S. infant and maternal mortality rates rank lower than those of many other developed nations, lagging behind countries such as Australia, Canada and even Lithuania. In Illinois, 6.3 babies die (before age 1) per 1,000 live births, while about 16 women die during pregnancy or after childbirth per every 100,000 births, according to the United Health Foundation's America's Health Rankings®.

To recognize Mother's Day and National Women's Health Week (May 12-18), here are five tips to consider to support the health of all women, especially expectant and new mothers:

Work in a Well-Woman Visit: About two-thirds of women each year receive a well-visit nationally, with the rate in Illinois at 67 percent. These annual visits can include important screenings, counseling and immunizations based on age and risk factors, while providing an opportunity to discuss with your health professional ways to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Mammograms Matter: One in eight American women will get a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in her lifetime, and most cases are detected by a mammogram before symptoms appear. According to the National Institutes of Health, the five-year breast cancer survival rate has increased significantly in recent years, now reaching more than 90 percent. For patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, the five-year survival rate is close to 100 percent.

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Take Charge of Your Health: This means eating well, staying active, getting sufficient sleep and limiting stress as much as possible. For expectant mothers, the U.S. Surgeon General advises that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, and smoking is unsafe for you and your baby. For support, your health plan may have programs and online services at no additional cost that can help you adopt a healthier lifestyle or, if needed, improve the management of chronic conditions, which is especially important for expectant women.

Avoid Early or Elective Deliveries: For expectant mothers, it is important to understand the risks associated with elective deliveries before 39 weeks of pregnancy and their potential impacts. Studies have shown that early, non-medically indicated cesarean (C-section) deliveries are linked to a higher risk of complications, including infection, hemorrhage or blood clots, and admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Babies born before 39 weeks are more likely to have respiratory problems and developmental delays, according to a published study.

Know Your Maternity Benefits and Rights at Work: If you work full time and plan to return to your job after your baby is born, it is helpful to know your company's maternity leave policy. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables mothers and fathers who have worked at least one year for a company with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off, while many employers offer full or partial paid leave. Under the law, your employer is required to give you the same -- or the substantially equivalent -- job back after your leave.

We've celebrated Mother's Day for more than 100 years. By considering this information, we can continue supporting the health of women and honor them for their important contributions to our communities.

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