The CDC has issued 10 new recommendations to promote healthy pregnancies.

The CDC made the recommendations with public and private partners including the March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The recommendations include steps that men and women can take, as well as policy strategies.

The recommendations are detailed in a special issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Here is an overview of the paper, titled “Recommendations to Improve Preconception Health and Health Care -- United States.”

Draft a reproductive life plan. Each woman, man, and couple should make a reproductive life plan that includes whether and when they want to have children and how they will maintain their reproductive health.

Increase public awareness about preconception health. Topics should include healthy behaviors -- like taking folic acid before pregnancy to lower the risk of birth defects -- and risky behaviors, such as smoking.

Make a preventive medical visit. Those visits would be part of primary care; that is, not just for people planning pregnancies. Topics could include birth defects risk, chronic diseases, genetic conditions, family medical history, alcohol and tobacco use, family planning, mental health, and social concerns (including social support, domestic violence, and housing).

Work to lower identified risks. Provide extra counseling or treatment, when needed. For instance, some patients may need help quitting smoking, managing diabetes, reaching a healthy weight, or curbing alcohol misuse.

Check health between pregnancies. Postpartum medical visits offer a chance to discuss ways to make future pregnancies healthier.

Get a prepregnancy checkup. As part of maternity care, offer a prepregnancy visit for people planning pregnancies.

Address health coverage for women with low incomes. Increase public and private health insurance coverage for women with low incomes to help those women get preventive, preconception, and between-pregnancy care. Integrate preconception health into existing local public health and related programs. Emphasize between-pregnancy interventions for women whose previous pregnancies have had problems.

Step up research. Increase data on ways to improve preconception health.

Monitor improvements. Use public health tools and related research to monitor preconception health.

Of course, those steps don’t guarantee that every pregnancy will be healthy. The report also doesn’t blame poor pregnancy outcomes on parents.

Though good medical care and healthy lifestyles are recommended, they don’t guarantee healthy pregnancies. Likewise, troubled pregnancies or birth defects aren’t necessarily due to parents’ behavior.

By Miranda Hitti, reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

SOURCES: CDC, “Recommendations to Improve Preconception Health and Health Care -- United States.” News release, CDC. News release, March of Dimes.