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Keeping Mom — and All Women — Healthy

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In May, we celebrate Mother’s Day to show our appreciation for moms, grandmas, aunts, sisters, cousins and other all of the other mother-like figures that influence us. Although it’s just one day in the year, it is a well-deserved recognition of everything these women do for us and the unconditional care they give us.

It is appropriate, then, that May is also Women’s Health Month. This is a good reminder that not only do our mothers and other important women in our lives deserve appreciation, but also that women should make their own health a priority! Far too often women put their health care needs last, if they address them at all. In fact, a survey by Working Mother magazine found that women took care of their children, older relatives, spouses or partners, and pets (!) before taking time for their own health care needs.

In addition, to taking care of the kids and parents, women also are typically in charge of maintaining the home. This means for shopping for food, cooking and making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be a the right time. It’s no wonder so many women struggle with their weight! In fact, about half of the female population is trying to lose weight at some point during the year. Finding time to exercise is also difficult among the demands of  work and home, and some women are concerned about their safety if they go out after dark or are in an area they don’t know well, so any outdoor activities are off the table.

This adds to the risk of obesity-related medical issues. Although men and women both struggle with weight issues, women are more likely to have obesity and extreme obesity. It also affects them in different ways, such as fertility and pregnancy. Infertility is linked to obesity, as is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common reproductive disorders women experience. Obesity — and PCOS — also disrupt menstrual cycles and ovulation and can lead to miscarriage.

Women with obesity who become pregnant are also at high risk. Embryos may not attach to the uterus, and the mom-to-be has a greater chance of developing gestational diabetes, hypertension and preeclampsia. The birth may need to be a Caesarian delivery, with the mom at higher risk of surgical infection and the baby having a low birth weight. Obesity also affects children further down the road because children who have parents with obesity often become obese themselves.

These are serious concerns but, fortunately, many of these conditions are reversible and there are precautions that can be taken to minimize any negative impact. For women considering motherhood, pre-pregnancy weight loss is the best alternative with the potential for high rewards. Weight loss can lead to more regular menstrual cycles and ovulation, which increases fertility and also can counter PCOS. Incorporating exercise as part of a weight loss program has added benefits because it helps to reduce blood sugar levels, which can prevent gestational diabetes.

Being informed and talking to your doctor well in advance of becoming pregnant is the best plan for positive outcomes. Making changes now offers could mean celebrating happy, healthy Mother’s Day for many years to come!

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