Your baby has the best chance of being healthy when you plan for pregnancy. This means you need to see your physician for a preconception health visit. Here you'll talk about managing any chronic conditions you have like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. What to do with the current medications you take before, during and after pregnancy. You will also discuss how to take prenatal vitamins (including folic acid*) to help aid you in a healthy pregnancy. You should also discuss birth control options and changes you need to make before attempting to get pregnant.
*Folic Acid Can Help Prevent Birth Defects:
If you plan to have children some day, here's important information for the future mother-to-be: Think folate now. Folate is a B vitamin found in a variety of foods and added to many vitamin and mineral supplements as folic acid, a synthetic form of folate. Folate is needed both before and in the first weeks of pregnancy and can help reduce the risk of certain serious and common birth defects called neural tube defects, which affect the brain and spinal cord.
The tricky part is that neural tube defects can occur in an embryo before a woman realizes she's pregnant. That's why it's important for all women of childbearing age (15 to 45) to include folate in their diets: If they get pregnant, it reduces the chance of the baby having a birth defect of the brain or spinal cord.
Folate's potential to reduce the risk of neural tube defects is so important that the Food and Drug Administration requires food manufacturers to fortify enriched grain products with folic acid. This will give women one way to get sufficient folate: by eating fortified breads and other grain products, such as enriched pasta, rice, waffles and cereal bars.
Other ways to do this are:
- Eat fruits, dark-green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, and other foods that are natural sources of folate.
- Eat folic acid-fortified enriched cereal grain products and breakfast cereals.
- Take a vitamin supplement containing folic acid.
Nutrition information on food and dietary supplement labels can help women determine whether they are getting enough folate, which is 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) a day before pregnancy and 800 micrograms a day during pregnancy.