Dr. Linda Britton
- Dr. Linda Britton is chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement of Tennessee.
With Mother’s Day part of the annual springtime cycle of renewal, this year’s celebration may bring added significance given Tennessee’s continued reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
As more people get vaccinated and some families start to gather in person again, it may be an ideal time to think about ways to help improve the health of women in Tennessee and honor the important role they play in their families’ well-being. Promoting the health of women should continue to be a priority for our country, especially because some mothers may now be coping with more stress while managing additional work and family responsibilities.
In fact, recent research concludes that COVID-19 has affected maternal health in multiple ways, including reducing access to prenatal visits, increasing the frequency of depression and anxiety, and challenges related to child care. To recognize Mother’s Day and National Women’s Health Week (May 9-15), here are three tips to consider to help support the health of women, including expectant and new mothers:
Consider vaccine options
Some pregnant or lactating women may be concerned about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use. Importantly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommend that pregnant people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, in part because they are at elevated risk for severe illness from this disease. Other research indicates that vaccinated mothers may pass along to their babies antibodies against COVID-19 through breast milk, potentially offering protection to infants.
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To help find vaccine locations in your area and address potential concerns, talk with your primary care physician, check local pharmacies or review publicly available websites.
Take advantage of technology
While some people may have postponed routine medical appointments due to risk of exposure to COVID-19, it is important women stay connected to their health care providers, especially for recommended prenatal and well-baby appointments, routine care and the management of chronic conditions. If possible, check for available virtual care resources to connect with local or national health care professionals, including through some health plans that enable 24/7 access to medical advice via a smartphone or computer.
In addition, mobile apps may help expectant moms monitor developments during pregnancy, including tracking weight, setting reminders to take vitamins and using a “kick counter” to monitor the baby’s movements. After delivery, other mobile apps may help with tracking and improving sleeping routines.
Focus on your health
This means eating well, staying active, getting enough sleep, continuing to take prescribed medications and limiting stress as much as possible — something that may be especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Walking at home or outside may be an option to help encourage physical and emotional well-being, so consider giving a loved one a smartwatch or fitness tracker to help promote daily movement.
For expectant mothers, it is important early on during pregnancy to access recommended prenatal care, which reduces the risk of preterm labor and low birth weight. Moreover, the U.S. surgeon general advises that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, while the World Health Organization reports these beverages reduce everyone’s ability to combat infectious diseases. Smoking, including e-cigarettes, other tobacco products containing nicotine and marijuana, are linked to health concerns and should be avoided. For support, your employer or health plan may have telephonic programs and online resources that may help you adopt a healthier lifestyle, more effectively handle stress or, if needed, help with the management of chronic conditions.
By considering these tips, we can continue supporting the health of women and honor them for their important contributions to our communities, especially during this period of renewal.
Dr. Linda Britton is chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement of Tennessee.