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"When Does Health Begin?" Campaign Headquarters

INTRODUCTION: THE POTENTIAL
OF IMAGE-BASED PRENATAL EDUCATION

If everyone better understood early human development and the many ways in which a mother's health influences the lifelong health of her baby, many people—women and men—would behave differently toward pregnancy and toward pregnant women.

As a result, many pregnancy complications, learning disabilities, and medical complications could be avoided. The reduction in human suffering and medical and special education costs would be tremendous.

Three Guidelines for Effective Prenatal Education

 
  1. Make Pregnancy
    Real
  2. Make Pregnancy Relevant
  3. Start Early

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 early age. Let people see the fetus in action. For many people, early 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.

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Make pregnancy relevant

Clearly explain the link between a mother's health before and during pregnancy and 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 prenatal events.

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"Start early, include everyone possible, and...don't ever stop"1

Apply this strategy common to many successful public health initiatives. Educate those already pregnant and young adults at risk of pregnancy and their families. Include students starting at age 12—hopefully well before they are involved in pregnancy-related issues.

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Footnotes
1Quote by DeAngelis CD (editor) from Hawkins JD et al.,1999. 226.