Shaping the Future Through Prenatal Education
If everyone better understood early human development and the many ways in which a mother's health and nutrition influence the lifelong health of her baby, many people—women and men—would behave differently toward pregnancy and pregnant women. Additionally, improving the health and nutrition of girls of all ages would become the high priority it should be.
Effective prenatal education has the unique potential to improve the health and save the lives of millions of people worldwide. Education is also the key to sharply reducing medical and special education costs—and human suffering.
“Until I saw the video [4-D ultrasound] of Katy at 20 weeks old, I could not relate to this lump growing inside me enough to want to give up my cigarettes.
But as soon as I saw the beautiful pictures of my daughter, it felt criminal to do anything which might cause her harm.
I stopped smoking straight away, gave up my glasses of wine and concentrated on making myself as healthy as possible to give Katy the best possible start in life.”
From “Womb View Boost for Expectant Parents,” BBC News, July 6, 2001.
Three Guidelines for Effective Prenatal Education
- Make pregnancy real – Use the best prenatal imagery available to showcase the embryo’s surprisingly rapid growth and amazing complexity—in spite of its small size and young age. Let people see the fetus in action. For many people, early human development is an “out of sight, out of mind” process. Seeing development unfold transforms pregnancy into a reality. Images plus words trump words alone.
To quickly and easily "make pregnancy real," show everyone The Biology of Prenatal Development DVD. Doing so provides viewers with a visual and scientific framework in which to place related health information.
- Make pregnancy relevant – Clearly explain how a mother’s health and nutrition before and during pregnancy profoundly influence the lifelong health of her baby. Cite examples such as the long-term benefits of preconception folic acid and the dangers of tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy. Motivate behavior change by helping everyone appreciate the lifelong consequences of preconception and prenatal events.
- "Start early, include everyone possible, and…don’t ever stop"* – Apply this strategy common to many successful public health initiatives. Educate those already pregnant as well as young adults at risk of pregnancy and their families. Include all students starting at age 12—hopefully well before they are involved in pregnancy-related issues.
*Quote by Catherine D. DeAngelis, M.D. (editor), from Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 1999, 153(3):226.
Making pregnancy real and relevant to an entire generation is an exciting new strategy to prevent birth defects, learning disabilities, and chronic disease and to improve lifelong health for everyone.
As an educator, medical professional, parent, grandparent, and/or concerned citizen, you are uniquely positioned to educate students, patients, colleagues, families, and countless others in your community. Help give the gift of health to current and future generations.
For more information and to learn how you can help, visit www.ehd.org/learn-more.