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Health Information For Parents
Having a healthy baby means making sure you’re healthy too. One of the most important things you can do to help prevent serious birth defects in your baby is to get enough folic acid every day — especially before conception and during early pregnancy.
Folic acid (or folate) is a B vitamin (B9) found mostly in dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, legumes such as beans and peas, and enriched grains.
Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should get at least 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid daily before conception and for at least 3 months afterward. Studies show that this greatly reduces a baby’s risk of serious neural tube defects.
Neural tube defects are birth defects that involve incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord. The most common neural tube defects are:
All of these defects happen during the first 28 days of pregnancy — usually before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
That’s why it’s so important for all women of childbearing age to get enough folic acid — not just those who are trying to become pregnant. Half of all pregnancies are not planned, so any woman who could become pregnant should make sure she gets enough folic acid.
It’s not clear why folic acid has such a profound effect on the prevention of neural tube defects. But experts do know that it’s vital to the development of DNA. As a result, folic acid plays a large role in cell growth and development, as well as tissue formation.
How can women of childbearing age — and especially those who are planning a pregnancy — get enough folic acid every day?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food-makers to add folic acid to their enriched grain products. So you can boost your intake by eating breakfast cereals, breads, pastas, and rice that have 100% of the recommended daily folic acid allowance. Check the product’s label for this information.
But for most women, eating fortified foods isn’t enough. To reach the recommended daily level, you’ll probably need a vitamin supplement. During pregnancy, you need more of all of the essential nutrients than you did before you became pregnant.
Prenatal vitamins shouldn’t replace a well-balanced diet. But taking them can give your body — and your baby — an added boost of vitamins and minerals. Some health care providers recommend taking a folic acid supplement in addition to a prenatal vitamin. Talk to your doctor about your daily folic acid intake. He or she might recommend a prescription supplement, an over-the-counter brand, or both.
Also talk to your doctor if you’ve already had a pregnancy that was affected by a neural tube defect or if you or your partner were affected by one yourselves. The doctor may recommend that you take a higher dose of folic acid (even before getting pregnant).
To eat well during pregnancy, your extra calories should come from nutritious foods that contribute to your baby’s growth and development.
The sooner in pregnancy good careÂ begins, the better for theÂ health of both moms and their babies. Here’s what to expect.
Learn which nutrients you need while pregnant or breastfeeding, and easy ways to add them to your diet.
What should women who are planning a pregnancy do before they conceive? Find out here.
Some birth defects are minor and cause no problems; others cause major disabilities. Learn about the different types of birth defects, and how to help prevent them.
During your pregnancy, you’ll probably get advice from everyone. But staying healthy depends on you – read about the many ways to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible.
Moms-to-be have a lot of questions about what’s safe during pregnancy. Keep your sanity by knowing what you can – and can’t – do before your baby arrives.
Every parent-to-be hopes for a healthy baby, but it can be hard not to worry. Find out what tests can keep you informed of your health â and your baby’s â throughout pregnancy.
Our week-by-week illustrated pregnancy calendar is a detailed guide to all the changes taking place in your baby – and in you!
Advice and information for expectant and new parents.
Spina bifida is a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord or its coverings. It’s usually detected before a baby is born and treated right away.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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