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Focus On…Key Elements of a Healthy Pregnancy with Kevia Taylor-Sullivan, MD, Ryan Health | Women and Children’s

April 23, 2024
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“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” — Tennis legend Arthur Ashe

Welcoming a new life into the world starts with a healthy pregnancy. Once a positive pregnancy test result comes back, there is so much to know and do.

Before You Are Pregnant

Most people do not realize that prenatal care starts before you are pregnant. That means you need to optimize your health before pregnancy, especially since many pregnancies are unplanned.

  • Be sure you are up-to-date on your vaccinations and eat a healthy diet. Take a prenatal vitamin and see your doctor for routine annual visits and preventive care.
  • Taking Arthur Ashe’s advice to heart—"Start where you are”—means understanding your and your partner’s health. Whether or not you plan to get pregnant, you and your partner should understand your family health histories.
  • Make sure your PAP smear is current and your weight is correct. Many factors can compromise your pregnancy, like high blood pressure or high blood sugar. Those must be controlled for both your and your baby’s health.

Early Pregnancy

The main goal of prenatal care is to help ensure the birth of a healthy baby while decreasing maternal risks. Once you have your first positive pregnancy test, you should make an appointment with your OB-GYN as early as possible. Also, an earlier ultrasound gives a more reliable estimation of gestational age and a more reliable due date for your baby’s delivery.

  • The first trimester of pregnancy is very important, although you may only need to see your physician once. Your physician will give you a comprehensive medical exam and review your family’s medical history for any red flags.
  • You will have a series of screenings for STIs, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and more.
  • Some patients may also be prescribed an aspirin regimen, which has been found to reduce complications of pregnancy for women with certain risk factors such as preeclampsia.
  • Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition that some women get when they are pregnant. They will have high blood pressure and many other signs and symptoms. Starting a low dose aspirin therapy in these patients may reduce the risk of complications like preterm delivery and other complications.

Throughout Your Pregnancy

You will see your doctor more frequently during the second trimester.

  • You should start to feel better, as morning sickness usually lessens and there is generally an end to extreme tiredness.
  • You will start showing more, and the fetus will have developed all its organs and will begin growing in length and weight.

By the third trimester of pregnancy, you should see your doctor weekly. You should know that some routine tests might take longer, and some require fasting.

  • It would be best if you also were gaining about one pound each week at this point.
  • There is not an “optimum” age for pregnancy. However, the risk factors increase for older women. (It also does not help that the term “geriatric pregnancy” starts at age 35.)
  • Older women have healthy babies all the time, although the risk of chromosomal abnormalities and other complications increases with age. From an emotional, social, and financial perspective, older women may be more prepared for pregnancy. Also, these pregnancies are more likely to be planned or even “assisted’ through a process like IVF.
  • Women of color unfortunately have higher mortality rate from pregnancy. Specifically, there is significant disparity in maternal mortality in the United States for Black females compared with White females and females of other races, which is worsening. The issue is complex and multifactorial. Social, structural, economical, and educational factors are at play. Even with this, mortality differences persist at all education levels, which suggests that factors beyond education are involved.

Ryan Health sees everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. We can also assist with social factors, such as providing healthy foods, transportation, and access to breastfeeding programs.

Building Your Support Network

Having support during pregnancy cannot be overstated. You should not bear all the weight of the pregnancy alone.

  • Whether it is your partner, family, or friends, having someone by your side during doctor’s appointments and throughout your pregnancy journey makes a big difference.
  • Your support person will make you more comfortable. They will feel a strong emotional connection when they hear the baby’s heartbeat on the Doppler ultrasound!
  • You should also consider hiring a doula. The New York City Doula Initiative can provide you with a doula, a professional, trained childbirth assistant to provide non-medical support. A doula will help you prepare and carry out childbirth plans, support you during labor and childbirth, and help you care for your baby. There are numerous benefits to having support from a doula.

After Your Baby Arrives

Once your baby is born, you will have assistance with breastfeeding, from finding a lactation consultant to getting a breast pump.

  • Also, The New York State Newborn Screening Program conducts a series of blood tests to check for 50 different disorders. The baby leaves the hospital with a car seat to ensure its safety and a schedule of appointments for follow-up doctor visits.
  • Postpartum care is just as crucial as prenatal care. Your first postpartum appointment will be about 2-6 weeks after giving birth. This appointment will include screenings and exams, and a discussion of your birth control needs. Postpartum care can help you avoid life threatening health complications, such as preeclampsia.

Being pregnant is life-changing, and it is important that you are as healthy as possible to deliver a healthy baby.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Taylor-Sullivan or any of our providers, use our Online Scheduler or call 212-749-1820.

To access the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program to recieve supplemental food benefits, call 212-865-0410 (Upper West Side) or 212-477-8846 (Lower East Side), text at 888-773-8846 or e-mail at