Information to Get You Started

Our Healthy Beginnings PATH program links you to important health information so you can make healthy choices during pregnancy and after your baby is born. Call the Healthy Beginnings PATH program as soon as you find out you are pregnant.

There is a lot to learn about pregnancy, delivery and caring for your baby after birth. Here is some important information to help you get started:

Eat Healthy | Flu Vaccination | Dental Care During Pregnancy | Get Smoke Free
Lead Poisoning | HIV and Chlamydia Testing | Preterm Labor
Depression During Pregnancy | Make Your Wishes Known | Elective Early Delivery
Breastfeeding | HIV & the Newborn Screening Program | Keep Your Baby Safe

Eat Healthy

It is important to the health of both you and your baby that you eat well during your pregnancy. Your baby needs certain nutrients and vitamins to grow strong. And you need to eat healthy foods to provide those nutrients to yourself and your baby.

If you can’t afford all the foods you need for healthy eating, you should contact the Women’s, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program for help. They will provide you with food resources and information about eating right and feeding your newborn. To find a WIC center near you, call 1-800-522-5006.

Flu Vaccination

Flu season in the New York area lasts from October through April. The CDC recommends that women who are pregnant during flu season get vaccinated. Speak with your doctor to find out if the flu vaccine is right for you.

Dental Care During Pregnancy

Pregnant women are at an increased risk for cavities and gum disease. Dental care during pregnancy is not only safe but very important to your health and the health of your baby. You may see your dentist for oral health care any time during pregnancy, but the best time is between 14 and 20 weeks.

It is safe to have dental X-rays during pregnancy, even during the first three months, as long as a lead shield is placed over your belly. There is evidence that young children get the bacteria that causes cavities from their mothers. Improving the health of your mouth may also improve the dental health of your child.

Here are some things you can do to improve your dental health:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with toothpaste and floss daily.
  • Drink water or low-fat milk and avoid sugary carbonated beverages.
  • Choose to eat fruit instead of drinking juice to meet your daily requirement for fruit.
  • Eat sugary foods with meals only.
  • Go to your dentist for a checkup early in pregnancy and receive any necessary treatment. If your dentist is not comfortable examining or treating you during pregnancy, ask him to contact your doctor to discuss treatment options.

You can also improve the dental health of your children by following these suggestions:

  • Use a soft cloth to wipe your infant’s teeth and gums after eating.
  • Watch your young children brush their teeth and offer suggestions on how they may do it better.
  • Do not put your child to bed with a bottle or sippy cup unless it contains water.
  • Limit sugary foods to meals only.
  • Do not put your child’s spoon, pacifier or toy in your mouth and then give it to your child.
  • Take your child for his or her first dental visit between 6 and 12 months of age.

If you have dental benefits as part of your health plan coverage, you can call the Customer Service phone number on the back of your ID card to find a dentist in your area. Medicaid, Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus members can call Healthplex at
1-800-468-9868. If you do not have dental coverage as part of your plan, you can locate a dentist by asking family or friends. If you live within New York City, you can also call 311 to find a dentist in your area.

Get Smoke Free

If you smoke, quitting is one of the best ways you can improve your health and give your baby a healthy start. When you stop smoking, your baby benefits too. Here’s how:

  • Your baby needs oxygen to develop properly. When you quit, your baby gets more oxygen and fewer toxins.
  • You will reduce the chance of miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • You will reduce the chance of early delivery or of having a baby with a low birth weight.
  • You will reduce the chance of your baby developing breathing problems, asthma and ear infections after birth.

There are many reasons to quit smoking. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your baby. If you need help quitting, call
1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) or speak with your doctor.

A Reminder: Pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers should talk with their doctor or midwife before using nicotine replacement therapy products such as nicotine gum, lozenges and patches.

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Lead Poisoning

What is lead poisoning?
Lead is poisonous. If it gets into your body, it could harm you and your unborn child. It enters the body – usually through the mouth or nose – travels through the blood stream, and collects in soft tissues of the body, such as the liver, kidneys and brain.

What causes lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning is usually caused by months or years of exposure to small amounts of lead in the home, at work or in a day care environment. The most common source of lead exposure is dust from old lead-based paint.

Are you and your unborn baby at risk?
A pregnant woman who has lead in her body may expose her unborn child to it. Lead in the mother’s womb passes through the placenta and can get into the baby’s bones, brain and other organs. If you are exposed to lead when you are pregnant, you have a higher risk of having a premature baby, miscarriage or stillborn. You also have a greater chance of having a low birth weight baby.

What can I do to protect my unborn baby?

  • Talk to your doctor about lead poisoning.
  • Consider being tested to measure lead levels in your blood.
  • Stay away from places where products that contain lead, such as old paint, are being removed or where old paint is chipping from walls or other surfaces.

For more Information visit the following Web sites:

HIV and Chlamydia Testing

During your pregnancy, your doctor will recommend a number of tests to help keep you and your baby healthy, including tests for HIV and chlamydia. Both of these conditions can be passed from you to your newborn. Your doctor can answer any questions you have about these tests.

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can have no symptoms, but can infect your female organs and can cause eye infections and pneumonia in your baby. It can be detected by a simple urine test. If the test is positive, you can get treatment during pregnancy.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The HIV virus attacks your immune system. People can get it by having unprotected sex and sharing needles. It can be passed to a baby during pregnancy, delivery or during breastfeeding.

It is important that you find out if you are HIV positive early in your pregnancy. If you are positive, treatment should be started immediately. This treatment can help improve your health and can help prevent you from passing the virus to your baby.

It is recommended that you be tested for HIV as soon as you know you are pregnant. If that test is negative, you should be tested again between 34 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. Your doctor will talk to you about HIV before and after testing.

Preterm Labor

While pregnancy usually lasts for 40 weeks, some women have preterm labor – that is labor that starts three or more weeks before their due date (i.e., before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Preterm labor may cause your baby to be born too soon. Preterm babies may:

  • Have trouble breathing, feeding and keeping warm.
  • Get more infections than other babies.
  • Need special hospital care in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
  • Have to stay in the hospital after their mothers go home.
  • Have long-term health problems related to breathing, vision, walking and learning.
  • Not be strong enough to survive, especially if they are very early.

It’s not always easy to tell that you are having preterm labor. Many of the signs feel like some of the normal things that can happen during the second half of pregnancy. Important signs to watch for, especially if they are new or feel different from before, are:

  • A sudden gush or constant leak of fluid from the vagina.
  • Bleeding from the vagina.
  • Contractions (tightening) of the uterus with or without pain.
  • Cramps similar to those you have during your period.
  • Intense pain in your abdomen that is constant.
  • Low, dull or constant backache.
  • Pelvic pressure; feeling full or heavy.
  • Increase or change in discharge from the vagina.

It is frightening to have signs of preterm labor and to think that your baby might be born early. Sometimes, women worry that they may be wrong or don’t want to “bother” someone at the hospital or their doctor. Listen to your body!

If something feels different or “not quite right,” contact your doctor, midwife or hospital immediately. Follow their instructions and if you are told to go to the hospital, ask a family member, neighbor or friend to drive you. Don’t drive yourself! In an emergency, call 911 for assistance.

Depression During Pregnancy

We hear a lot about postpartum (after childbirth) depression, but depression can occur at any time during or after pregnancy. If you think you are experiencing depression, call your doctor or our Mental Health and Substance Abuse department at the phone number listed on the back of your health plan ID card.

Some of the signs of depression are:

  • Crying or sadness for no reason.
  • Inability to start or complete normal tasks.
  • Worrying constantly about your baby’s health.
  • Inability to care for yourself or your family.
  • Anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Fear or thoughts that you might harm yourself or others.

Remember, depression is an illness that can be treated if you ask for help. Don’t wait. If you have symptoms, call for help today!

Make Your Wishes Known

We would like to give you some important information to help you prepare for a life-altering health condition, should it occur. The three documents described below can help your family, close friends and your doctors know your wishes should you become ill or injured and unable to communicate because of your condition.* Fill out these documents when you are well and keep them up-to-date.

  • Health Care Proxy: A health care proxy lets you name a family member or close friend that would make your health care choices for you if you are not able to make your wishes known.
  • Living Will: A living will helps define what efforts you would want used to save your life, or if you would rather limit or stop treatment if your condition can’t be changed.
  • Power of Attorney: A Power of Attorney lets you authorize another person, often a family member, to act on your behalf. This person can deal with a variety of financial and property matters for you, ranging from using your bank accounts to buying and selling real estate.

    There are several types of Power of Attorney. Speak with a lawyer before filling out any of these documents to be sure that your wishes are stated correctly.

* New York and federal law gives every able adult, 18 years of age and older, the right to make their health care choices, including the right to decide what medical care or treatment to accept, decline or stop.

Elective Early Delivery

Pregnancy is usually 40 weeks long. Babies and moms need this time to grow and get ready for delivery. Babies that are born at 37 or 38 weeks of pregnancy are more likely to have breathing problems, low blood sugar and infections than babies born at 39 or 40 weeks.

You may feel impatient during the last few weeks of your pregnancy. You want to see and hold your baby and you’re tired of being pregnant. But your baby is still doing a lot of growing inside of you. And your body is preparing to give birth. So try not to ask your doctor or midwife to deliver you early for nonmedical reasons.

Be good to yourself and your baby during those last few weeks. Rest and take care of yourself and let nature take its course. In some cases, your doctor or midwife might want you to have an early delivery for your health or the health of your baby. Your doctor or midwife will talk with you if this is needed.

Breastfeeding

EmblemHealth and the New York State Department of Health encourage all women to feed their infants nothing but breast milk for at least the first six months of life.

Some women are unsure about breastfeeding until they learn how easy and natural it can be. Just think, there is no preparation of formula. Breast milk also has antibodies that can help keep your baby from getting sick.

To help you feel more comfortable with breastfeeding, here are a few tips to get you ready:

  • Read a book or watch a DVD about breastfeeding.
  • Take a breastfeeding class. Ask your doctor, midwife or the childbirth education center at the hospital where you will have your baby for a list of classes. Classes are also available at WIC centers. These classes are provided free of charge to HIP Medicaid, Family Health Plus and Child Health Plus members.
  • After you have your baby, ask to have the lactation consultant, a specially trained hospital staff member, help you start nursing.
  • Nurse in the delivery or recovery room or as soon as possible after delivery.
  • Nurse frequently – the more the baby “empties” the breasts, the more milk that is made for future feedings. The breasts are never truly empty; they are always producing more milk.

Note: Women who are HIV positive should not breastfeed, since they may transmit the virus to their baby.

HIV and the Newborn Screening Program

New York State requires that all newborns be tested for HIV and other disorders through the Newborn Screening Program. This testing is free.

Some of the conditions tested for can affect a newborn’s physical and mental development very early in life. Early treatment is very important to make sure your baby has every chance to develop to his/her potential.

While in the hospital, a small amount of blood will be taken from your baby’s heel. This blood sample will then be sent to the state for testing. The results will be sent to your baby’s doctor. Be sure to discuss the results of these tests at your baby’s first checkup.

Your baby will also be tested for HIV while in the hospital. The results of this test will be given to you before you leave the hospital and confidentially reported to the State Health Department as well as to your baby’s doctor. Your baby’s doctor is the best source of information about the results of this test and can help you decide if treatment is needed.

The Wadsworth Center can give you more information about the New York State Newborn Screening Program.

For more information on HIV and AIDS, visit the New York State Department of Health.

Keep Your Baby Safe

When you bring your baby home, it is important to create an environment that promotes safety and well-being. Here are some precautions that will help keep your new baby safe:

  • Make sure your crib meets national safety standards and is in good condition. Look for a certification and safety seal. Older cribs may not meet standards. Crib slats should be no more than 2 3/8” apart, and the mattress should fit snugly to prevent suffocation.
  • Be sure that no pillows, soft bedding or comforters are used when baby is put to sleep. According to the March of Dimes, your baby should be put to sleep on his or her back in a crib with a firm, flat mattress. Babies who are put to sleep on their stomachs are at the highest risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • To help protect against injuries and falls, be sure that safety gates are used to keep children away from potentially dangerous areas, especially stairs.
  • Mini and venetian blinds should not have looped cords. Check that vertical blinds, continuous looped blinds and drapery cords have tension tie-down devices to hold the cord tight in order to prevent strangulation.
  • Never leave your baby alone on a changing table, counter or any surface that is above floor level. In fact, don't even turn your back. In only an instant, a baby can roll off a counter and fall. Try changing your baby's diapers on the floor. Put the baby on a changing mat or a small blanket. This way, you will have plenty of space and your baby can't fall.

Have a car safety seat waiting when you are ready to bring your baby home. Make sure the car seat meets federal safety guidelines.

  • The seat and baby must face the back of the car. Car seats are safest when placed facing backward in the back seat.
  • It is against the law for a baby to ride in the front passenger seat. If your vehicle has an air bag for the front passenger seat, it is especially dangerous. A deploying air bag could seriously injure your baby.
  • Put your baby in a sleeper so that the car seat harness straps can go between the legs. Then cover the baby with a blanket.
  • When installing a child safety seat, please follow instructions in your vehicle owner's manual and those accompanying the child safety seat. If you need help, fitting stations are available.

Please visit the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more. You can get additional information about the proper use of child safety seats through the following organizations:

SafetyBeltSafe USA
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Safe Kids USA