Maternal, Infant, & Child Health
The health of mothers, infants, and children is a reflection of the current health status of Hawaii’s population, and predicts the health of the next generation. Maternal and child health begins before conception, when steps can be made to improve the overall health of the mother. Once pregnant, it is recommended to seek prenatal care because of its potential to improve the health of mothers and infants. Early prenatal care allows for the detection, treatment, and management of medical and obstetric conditions. Additionally, it gives health care professionals an opportunity to screen and counsel women for risky behaviors, such as alcohol or substance use. Alcohol is the leading cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs). Since the safe or minimum amount of alcohol is unknown, complete abstinence from alcohol use is recommended for pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant. Drug use poses various risks for unborn babies and pregnant women. Babies exposed to illegal drugs can have low birth weight, withdrawal symptoms, birth defects, or learning or behavioral problems. Similar to alcohol use, birth defects and other problems resulting from illegal drugs are 100% preventable if women stop before becoming pregnant. Another risky behavior is tobacco use, can result in premature birth, low birth-weight, still birth, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breast-feeding is recognized by national and international authorities as the single best way to feed infants. It is associated with fewer episodes of infectious illness among infants and healthier relationships between babies and mothers. In addition to being cost-effective, breast-fed children have been found to have higher cognitive function than formula-fed infants.