Trying to get pregnant? Now is the ideal time for making sure your baby-to-be body is prepared for a new tenant.
Up your folic acid intake. Folic acid, a naturally occurring B vitamin, has been shown to help prevent major birth defects, including spina bifida. Start taking an over-the-counter prenatal vitamin with 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid before you’re pregnant. Your practitioner can advise you on what to aim for within this range. If you’ve had a child with a brain or spinal birth defect, or have a family history of spina bifida, your doctor will want to prescribe a vitamin with much higher amounts of folic acid. You should also look to your diet to round out your intake. Foods rich in folic acid include: dark leafy greens, such as spinach and collards, broccoli, papaya, lentils, and avocados.
Store up on iron. Iron is an essential mineral that helps carry oxygen-rich blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. Not getting enough iron in your diet can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, a serious condition during pregnancy that can trigger pre-term labor, and also cause physical and mental fatigue for you. Iron-rich foods include:
- Poultry (especially dark meat)
- Fish and shellfish (check with your doctor about consuming fish that may contain high levels of mercury)
- Leafy greens, including cabbage, kale, collards and turnip greens
- Legumes such as green peas, dry beans (black-eyed peas, pinto beans)
Once pregnant, you’ll be tested for anemia at one of your early prenatal visits. But since it’s not uncommon to develop anemia later in pregnancy, be sure to let your doctor know about symptoms that could signal anemia, such as exhaustion, dizziness and/or weakness.
Get your weight in check. The best preconception plan is to get your body mass index (BMI)—essentially your level of body fat—within a normal range, says Obstetrician-Gynecologist Dr. Paula Kolbas. Studies have shown that a high BMI can actually keep you from getting pregnant. Being overweight can also cause complications during pregnancy, including gestational diabetes and hypertension.
Great ways to lower body fat: Exercise. Avoid refined sugars, white flour and saturated fats, and incorporate more whole-grains, fruits and veggies, lean meats, poultry, and fish into your diet. Establishing these healthy habits now will make you much more likely to stick to them once you’re pregnant.
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