by Dr. Catranis, M.D.
Planning your pregnancy can help you make wise choices that will benefit both you and your baby. Many women don't know they are pregnant until several weeks after they have conceived. These early weeks are key for your baby. During those early weeks, your health and nutrition can affect your baby's growth. Good health and health care before you become pregnant will help you throughout your pregnancy.
Early prenatal care or care prior to conception may help you and your doctor identify certain risks or medical conditions.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that women who can become pregnant should take 0.4 milligrams of folic acid daily to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine, also known as neural tube defects. Folic acid is needed in the first weeks of pregnancy, even before a woman may know she’s pregnant. Since many pregnancies are unplanned it is important for women who can become pregnant to take folic acid every day. Pregnant women should also have at least 0.4 milligrams of folic acid during the first 3 months of pregnancy.
Folic Acid is a B-vitamin needed for proper cell growth and can be found in many multi-vitamins as well as many food sources including:
- Dark, leafy greens and vegetables
- Whole-grain breads and cereals
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Organ meats such as liver
- Dried peas and beans
Most women will not meet their daily requirement from foods alone. Therefore, they should take a multi-vitamin to ensure that they get enough folic acid.
Smoking during pregnancy can harm the baby. Even only once in a while can do harm to the fetus or make it harder to get pregnant. Your partner also should quit smoking. Living with someone who smokes also means that you are likely to breathe in harmful amounts of secondhand smoke. There is also a risk for the baby after he or she is born. Infants and young children who are exposed to secondhand smoke have more colds, respiratory infections, infantile colic, childhood obesity and are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It is estimated that eliminating smoking during pregnancy would reduce infant deaths by 5% and reduce the incidence of singleton low-birth-weight infants by 10.4%.