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All women who are able to become pregnant should know about preconception health. This is a woman's health before she becomes pregnant. It means knowing how health conditions and risk factors could affect a woman or her unborn baby if she becomes pregnant. For example, some foods, habits, and medicines can harm your baby — even before you get pregnant. Some health problems, such as diabetes, also can affect pregnancy.
Another aspect of preconception health is using birth control if you are sexually active but do not want to become pregnant. Learn more about types of birth control and how well they work. Keep in mind that most forms for birth control do not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Male condoms offer the best protection against STIs.
Every woman should be thinking about these and other health matters whether or not she is planning pregnancy. One reason is that about half of all pregnancies are not planned. Unplanned pregnancies are at greater risk of preterm birth and low-birth-weight babies. Another reason is that, despite important advances in medicine and prenatal care, about 1 in 8 babies is born too early. Researchers are trying to find out why and how to prevent preterm birth. But experts agree that women need to be healthier before becoming pregnant. By taking action on health issues and risks before pregnancy, you can prevent problems that might affect you or your baby later. Learn more about preconception health and why it's so important.
Content last updated: May 18, 2010.