Staying Healthy During Pregnancy (Part 2)
Most women 19 and older — including those who are pregnant — don"t often get the daily 1,000 mg of calcium that"s recommended. Because your growing baby"s calcium demands are high, you should increase your calcium consumption to prevent a loss of calcium from your own bones. Your doctor will also likely prescribe prenatal vitamins for you, which may contain some extra calcium.
Good sources of calcium include:
• low-fat dairy products including milk, pasteurized cheese, and yogurt
• calcium-fortified products, including orange juice, soy milk, and cereals
• dark green vegetables including spinach, kale, and broccoli
• dried beans
Pregnant women need about 30 mg of iron every day. Why?
Because iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. Red blood cells circulate throughout the body to deliver oxygen to all its cells.
Without enough iron, the body can"t make enough red blood cells and the body"s tissues and organs won"t get the oxygen they need to function well. So it"s especially important for pregnant women to get enough iron in their daily diets — for themselves and their growing babies.
Although the nutrient can be found in various kinds of foods, iron from meat sources is more easily absorbed by the body than iron found in plant foods. Iron-rich foods include:
• red meat
• dark poultry
• enriched grains
• dried beans and peas
• dried fruits
• dark leafy green vegetables
• blackstrap molasses
• iron-fortified breakfast cereals
Folate (Folic Acid)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all women of childbearing age — and especially those who are planning a pregnancy — get about 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid supplements every day. That can be from a multivitamin or folic acid supplement in addition to the folic acid found in food.
So, why is folic acid so important? Studies have shown that taking folic acid supplements 1 month prior to and throughout the first 3 months of pregnancy decrease the risk of neural tube defects by up to 70%.
The neural tube — formed during the several weeks of the pregnancy, possibly before a woman even knows she"s pregnant — goes on to become the baby"s developing brain and spinal cord. When the neural tube doesn"t form properly, the result is a neural tube defect such as spina bifida.
Again, your health care provider can prescribe a prenatal vitamin that contains the right amount of folic acid. Some pregnancy health care providers even recommend taking an additional folic acid supplement, especially if a woman has previously had a child with a neural tube defect.
If you"re buying an over-the-counter supplement, keep in mind that most multivitamins contain folic acid, but not all of them have enough folic acid to meet the nutritional needs of a pregnant woman. So, be sure to check labels carefully before choosing one and check with your health care provider.
It's also important to drink plenty of fluids, especially water, during pregnancy. A woman"s blood volume increases dramatically during pregnancy, and drinking enough water each day can help prevent common problems such as dehydration and constipation.
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