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Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why should I be concerned with my health now if I am not trying to get pregnant?
About half of all pregnancies are unplanned. Getting healthy before getting pregnant greatly increases a woman’s chances of having a healthy baby. Living a healthy lifestyle helps ensure good health.
SoonerPlan is Oklahoma’s family planning program for uninsured women and men. The program is available for both men and women, who are U.S. citizens or qualified immigrants living in Oklahoma, age 19 or older, not enrolled in SoonerCare and meet income qualifications. SoonerPlan provides birth control information and supplies for men and women, as well as physical exams for family planning and related lab tests including pregnancy tests. You may obtain an application for SoonerPlan from your local county health department (call 1-800-426-2747 for locations), your local county Oklahoma Department of Human Services office (call 405-521-2779 for locations), the Oklahoma Health Care Authority website, or from a variety of family planning providers/clinics.
The Oklahoma Family Planning Program provides services related to reproductive health, including birth control. Services are available for males and females of reproductive age. Services are provided on a voluntary and confidential basis and services will not be refused based on inability to pay. Contact your local health department or visit www.health.ok.gov or call 405-271-4476 for more information.
3. Does what I eat really matter?
Yes, a variety of healthy food choices is important before, during and after pregnancy. It’s important to learn and practice good eating habits, to provide not only for your needs, but also for a baby’s needs (in case you get pregnant), and also to prevent possible harm to an unborn baby. For information on Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program, call 1-888-OKLAWIC (655-2942).
4. Why is it important to take folic acid?
The B vitamin in folic acid helps to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs).The neural tube begins to form the baby's brain and spine two to three days after the missed menstrual period and is fully formed within about 10 days (27 days after conception). This is before many women even know they are pregnant.
If the neural tube fails to close, two serious birth defects can occur. Anencephaly, absence or deficiency of a major portion of the cranial vault (skull), results in stillbirth or death shortly after birth. Spina bifida, a visible sack or epithelial defect (opening in the spine), causes varying degrees of disability related to paralysis, lack of bowel and bladder control and hydrocephalus. With the help of medical care, babies born with spina bifida reach adulthood.
All women who can become pregnant need to consume 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of synthetic folic acid each day to reduce their risk of having a pregnancy affected by a NTD. Most multivitamins sold in the U.S. have the amount of folic acid women need each day. The daily consumption throughout childbearing years is critical, because the developing baby needs the folic acid before the mother would recognize the pregnancy. Since half of all pregnancies are unplanned, daily intake of a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid, along with foods fortified with folic acid and eating a balanced diet is crucial for prevention of birth defects. Foods containing folic acid include orange juice, leafy green vegetables, and enriched breads and cereals. Folic acid also helps to prevent cancer and promote heart health.
5. How does smoking affect my health?
Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Cigarette smoking accounts for nearly 1 of every 5 deaths each year in the United States. Smoking causes nearly 80% of all lung cancer deaths in women. Smoking also increases a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke. On average, smokers die 13 to 14 years earlier than non-smokers.
Women should stop smoking before they stop using birth control. Having a healthy baby is more likely if a woman is tobacco free. Smoking during pregnancy increases risks of a preterm delivery, low birth weight baby, miscarriage, stillbirth or infant death. Smoking during and after pregnancy may cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Pregnant women should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Be a quitter. People who stop smoking greatly reduce their risk of disease and early death. There are free services to help with quitting. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) or ask your healthcare provider for assistance.
Male partners can improve their own reproductive health and overall health by limiting alcohol, quitting smoking or illegal drug use, making healthy food choices, and reducing stress. Studies show that men who drink a lot, smoke, or use drugs can have problems with their sperm. These cause problems with getting pregnant. It is equally important for men and women to support their partner’s healthy choice to be alcohol, tobacco and drug-free.
Male and female partners should be screened and, if necessary, treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to help make sure infections are not passed to female partners. Also he/she should talk to his/her doctor about his/her own health, family history, and any medicines he/she uses.
People who work with chemicals or other toxins should be careful not to expose women, infants, or young children to them. For example, people who work with fertilizers or pesticides or are exposed to lead should change out of dirty clothes before going near women, infants or young children. Soiled clothes should be handled and washed separately. If there is a risk for lead contamination, soiled clothes should be washed in a separate washer if possible.
7. What should I do if I’m in an abusive relationship?
Often there is a cycle of violence with tension building (blaming, anger, jealousy), followed by battering, either verbal or physical, after which the abuser may deny the violence, make excuses, buy gifts and promise to never do it again. It is important for women to realize that domestic violence is serious and can result in death.
Pregnancy is often the starting point for violence in a relationship or the violence may become worse during pregnancy. Abuse can lead to pre-term birth and a low birth weight baby.
Leaving an abusive relationship can be very hard. It may take time to feel ready. Call 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) for help. Domestic violence is never okay and it’s not your fault!
8. What are the signs of depression?
Depression is more than just feeling “blue” or “down in the dumps” for a few days. It’s a serious illness that involves the brain. With depression, sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings don’t go away and get in the way of day-to-day life and routines. These feelings can be mild to severe. The good news is that most people with depression get better with treatment. Treatment may include medication along with counseling. But if you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, talk with your healthcare provider about which medications are safe to take during pregnancy.
The doctor can decide if the symptoms are caused by depression or something else.
Call 911 or your doctor immediately if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby! You can also call the Reachout hotline at 1-800-522-9054.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health 1-800-994-9662 TDD: 1-888-220-5446
9. What if I’m already pregnant?
It’s not too late. Start taking prenatal vitamins now that can be purchased where other vitamins are sold. You can decrease your risks for poor pregnancy outcomes for you and your baby the sooner you stop any unhealthy habits like smoking or drinking alcohol. It is very important to see a healthcare provider as soon as possible. If you don’t have health insurance that covers pregnancy, you may request a medical application for yourself or any other person by mail, telephone or by scheduling an appointment with your Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) county office. You may also download a SoonerCare application form in English or Spanish.
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