Nutrition During Pregnancy
The importance of good nutrition during pregnancy:
|An expectant mother should talk with her physician about restricting her intake of caffeine and artificial sweeteners. |
In addition, taking certain nutrients as supplementation to the diet can help ensure all the nutritional needs are met. Important nutrients include folic acid, calcium - which helps maintain bone density, and iron - which is necessary for blood to carry oxygen.
Why is folic acid important?
|The US Public Health Service recommends that all women of childbearing age consume 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid each day. Folic acid, a nutrient found in some green, leafy vegetables, most berries, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, fortified breakfast cereals, and some vitamin supplements can help reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (called neural tube defects). The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida (in which the vertebrae do not fuse together properly, causing the spinal cord to be exposed) which can lead to varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, and sometimes mental retardation. |
Folic acid is most beneficial during the first 28 days after conception, when most neural tube defects occur. Unfortunately, many women do not realize they are pregnant before 28 days. Therefore, folic acid intake should begin prior to conception.
Most physicians will prescribe a prenatal supplement before conception, or shortly afterward, to ensure all of the woman's nutritional needs are met. However, a prenatal supplement does not replace a healthy diet.
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