Pregnancy has the potential to be one of the most extraordinary times in a woman’s life. But if she’s experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, it can also be one of the most worrisome. Dr. Debra Jones, a local perinatologist, has dedicated her career to easing these anxieties and helping mothers bring healthy babies into the world.
“I have a passion and a reverence for life,” Jones says. “The way that I’ve been able to act on my passion is through helping women have healthy babies.”
Jones has long worked with mothers experiencing issues that lead to high-risk pregnancies, including preexisting health conditions like diabetes and hypertension, advanced maternal age, obesity, and carrying multiples. Now, she wants to help those dealing with one of today’s most pressing health concerns: addiction and substance-abuse disorder.
In late July, Jones paired up with businesswoman Lori Fischer to open Mango Bay Retreat, a women’s addiction-treatment facility specializing in pregnancy and located in West Palm Beach. Mango Bay’s services range from traditional behavioral therapy to holistic approaches like yoga and meditation, as well as prenatal and parenting programs. The facility comprises a residential unit for women dealing intensively with their addictions as well as an outpatient unit for group counseling and one-on-one sessions.
“We’re trying to build a comprehensive program to address the special needs of women, and pregnant women specifically, with substance-use disorder,” Jones says.
Mango Bay’s ultimate goal is to provide access to the care, knowledge, and services these women need to help decrease the risk of their babies suffering from problems associated with addiction-related high-risk pregnancies, like intrauterine growth restrictions, neonatal abstinence syndrome, and preterm delivery. As with any pregnancy, Jones acknowledges, the most crucial time for a woman to get healthy is before conceiving. “If you’re contemplating pregnancy and have a substance-abuse disorder, that is the ideal time to come,” she says
Below, Dr. Jones discusses common high-risk pregnancy factors and tips for having a healthy pregnancy.
PBI.com: What are some common factors that lead to high-risk pregnancies?
Jones: If you’ve had previous medical problems when you come into a pregnancy you’ll then be at risk for having a high-risk pregnancy. For example, if you have hypertension, diabetes, if you’re obese, or if you have advanced maternal age. The healthier you are at the beginning of the pregnancy the less likely, not impossible, but the less likely you’re going to have complications. There are some people who come to a pregnancy very healthy and still end up with a high-risk pregnancy. So pregnancy itself for some people—and we don’t yet know why—causes them to develop diabetes or high blood pressure during the pregnancy.
What diet would you recommend for women who are more susceptible to high-risk pregnancies?
Make sure you do have leafy green vegetables for folic acid, which is needed to develop healthy babies. Folic acid is something women should be taking preferably before they get pregnant. If you can, get your BMI to less than 30 and start taking a prenatal vitamin with a folic acid minimum of 400 micrograms. Stay away from fast food, sodas, and things with empty calories, and have lots of water, fruits, and vegetables. With fruits, you want apples, pears, and berries. For veggies, limit the starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes and do more leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potatoes.
What factors do you encourage women who are pregnant with multiples to think about?
The important thing is diet. They have to make sure they’re eating at least every couple of hours each day. They should have many some small meals throughout the day and get lots of hydration. They should also rest and learn the signs and symptoms of preterm labor. They should be educated about the type of twins they’re carrying, whether they’re carrying identical twins or fraternal twins, and be aware of the complications that can occur depending on the type of twins.