Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

If you are planning a pregnancy or are already pregnant, there are certain dietary rules that will improve the chances of a healthy pregnancy. There are obvious adjustments that you should make to your lifestyle, like not smoking or drinking, but ensuring a healthy baby involves a more careful prenatal diet.

Take Your Vitamins

According to the March of Dimes, an organization with the primary goal of reducing birth defects, women who are of childbearing age (regardless of pregnancy) should take 400mcg of folic acid every day.  Folic acid has been proven to reduce birth defects and is a key ingredient in many prenatal vitamins, since it helps the infant’s neural tube develop. So why should all women of childbearing age worry about folic acid? Not every pregnancy is planned, and a positive pregnancy test can come as a surprise. To be effective, folic acid should be taken at least a month in advance of a planned pregnancy. Although folic acid is naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, you should consider taking a supplement to ensure you have the proper amount in your system.

Once you have a confirmed pregnancy, you should definitely be taking a prenatal vitamin. Especially for those suffering from severe morning sickness, it can be nearly impossible to consume all of the nutrients that your baby needs during pregnancy. Not only do prenatal vitamins contain the required mount of folic acid, they have other nutrients that promote a healthy pregnancy. Your Ob/Gyn can prescribe some for you, or they can be found at almost any drug store over the counter.

Eat Healthy

There are plenty of healthy foods that you can add to your prenatal diet, including unlimited vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables like spinach. A small amount of iron is essential to fetal development as well, so you will want to make sure you are eating protein with each meal. And of course, drink plenty of water, which is something your Ob/Gyn will encourage as well.

What you consume during pregnancy can promote health even after your baby is born. Recent studies have shown that adding more vitamin E and zinc to your diet could prevent asthma and other breathing complications in your child.  Sunflower seeds, spinach, broccoli, blueberries, and olives are great sources of vitamin E, and lean meat, yogurt, spinach, and mushrooms are excellent zinc sources.

Avoid Harmful Foods

Nutritious choices are important while pregnant, but you also want to be mindful of the foods that can cause harm to a fetus. While pregnant, you should avoid mercury-laden fish like mackerel and swordfish, and you should limit your intake of other fish, like tuna, to no more than once per week.  Limit your intake of caffeine (current research sets the limit at two cups per day) as well as salt (too much salt will raise your blood pressure, and may cause complications like edema). If you have any questions or concerns, call your Ob/Gyn before consuming something that you are unsure of.

Many demands are placed on a woman’s body throughout pregnancy, and when faced with morning sickness, it can be hard to maintain a good prenatal diet. Of course, no one is denying the occasional craving of ice cream or pickles (or my personal favorite of an Arby’s Beef and Cheddar sandwich), but healthy eating can make a difference how you feel, your mood, and your overall health.