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Five health tips to help make the most of Mother’s Day

It’s fitting Mother’s Day occurs each spring, a time often associated with renewal and rebirth.

As we celebrate the women in our lives and the important role they play in our families and our communities, Mother’s Day also provides an opportunity to think about ways to help encourage women of all ages to prioritize their health. Women may face unique and varied health care needs based on age, race, culture and other factors, so a holistic approach to well-being is important.

Often the caretakers and CEOs of their families’ health care needs, some women prioritize the well-being of their partners, parents and children while neglecting their own. In fact, a survey of American women found that nearly half of respondents had in the previous year skipped a preventive health care visit, such as an annual checkup, vaccine or recommended screening.

At the state level, California ranks 17th for the overall health of women (ages 18 to 44) based on more than 40 measures of health and well-being, according to the United Health Foundation America’s Health Rankings 2023 Health of Women and Children Report.

To recognize Mother’s Day and National Women’s Health Week (May 12-18), here are five tips to help support the health of women, especially expectant and new mothers.

Work in a Well-Woman Visit: Nationally, more than two-thirds (70.5 percent) of women (ages 18 to 44) receive an annual well-visit, above the 62.4 percent in California. These annual visits can include important screenings, guidance and immunizations based on age and risk factors. They can also provide an opportunity to discuss with your health professional how to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

Mammograms Matter: One in eight American women will get a breast cancer diagnosis at some point in her lifetime, and most cases are detected by a mammogram before symptoms appear. Research shows the five-year breast cancer survival rate has increased in recent years, now reaching more than 90 percent. For patients diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, the five-year survival rate is close to 100 percent. Given rising cancer rates for younger women and data showing screenings can save lives, new federal guidance recommends women get a mammogram every other year starting at age 40, compared to prior recommendations that these tests start no later than age 50.

Take Charge of Your Health: This can mean eating well, staying active, getting sufficient sleep and limiting stress as much as possible. For expectant mothers, the U.S. Surgeon General advises that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy, and smoking is unsafe for you and your baby. For support, your health plan may offer programs and online resources at no additional cost that can help you adopt a healthier lifestyle or improve the management of chronic conditions (if needed), which is important for expectant women.

Encourage Healthy, Full-Term Deliveries: For women thinking about starting or expanding their families, it’s important to access quality pre-conception, prenatal and postnatal care. Importantly, this type of support may help improve health outcomes for both moms and babies. It may also be helpful to identify people who can provide support before, during and after delivery. One option is a doula. These non-clinical professionals can provide emotional, informational, and physical support for women and families during their pregnancy and delivery journeys. Doulas have been found to improve clinical outcomes, especially for people of color.

Know Your Maternity Benefits and Rights at Work: If you work full-time and plan to return to your job after your baby is born, it is helpful to know your company’s maternity leave policy. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) enables mothers and fathers who have worked at least one year for a company with 50 or more employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off. Many employers also offer full or partial paid leave. According to the National Partnership on Women and Families, your employer may be required to give you the same — or a substantially equivalent — job back after your leave.

Our nation has celebrated Mother’s Day for more than 100 years. By considering this information, we can continue supporting the health of women and honor them for their important contributions to our communities.


Dr. Donna O’Shea is an OB/GYN and Chief Medical Officer of Population Health, UnitedHealthcare.