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What is preconception health?

There are 1.8 million women of childbearing age in North Carolina. They are our mothers, our sisters, our aunts, our friends, and our neighbors. They play a crucial role in our communities as parents and caretakers. They work in our schools, our offices, our factories, our hospitals and our restaurants. In most families, they serve as the gatekeepers for healthy living. So not only is the health of these women inextricably linked to the health of their babies, it has a direct impact on the health of their families.

It is time to take a fresh approach to reducing infant mortality by improving the health of these women during their childbearing years. Preconception health offers a new perspective on an old problem. This vision presents women being healthy as a desirable end in itself and not just as an important way to improve the health of their babies. Preconception health helps women think about how their behaviors, lifestyles, and medical conditions affect their ability to live healthy lives and to have healthy children. It gives them the opportunity to be assessed for risks, to be counseled about healthy living, and to be offered treatment as needed.

Preconception health 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. You may also hear preconception health being called preconceptional health, preconception care, preconception health care and pre-pregnancy health.

Preconception health is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as interventions that aim to identify and modify biomedical, behavioral, and social risks to a woman’s health or pregnancy outcome through prevention and management. It emphasizes those factors that must be acted on either before conception or early in pregnancy to have the greatest impact. The fundamental elements of preconception care include screening for medical and social risk factors, providing health education, and delivering effective treatment or prevention plans.

Investing our resources and energy in preconception health is vital to North Carolina’s future. Better preconception health improves the overall health of women and babies, decreases health disparities, improves our health care system, and decreases costs to families and society.

The purpose of Every Woman North Carolina is to provide preconception health education, tools and messages to the general public, health care providers and public health administrators. Everyone is welcome to use this site for information and resources.

Content courtesy of the “North Carolina Preconception Health Strategic Plan” from the Women’s Health Branch, Division of Public Health, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The original document can be found here

Revised: June 11, 2012

This web site is designed for informational use only; it is not designed to give advice, diagnose, cure or treat any medical condition you may have. If you have any questions about your health, please contact your health care provider.