Healthy babies come from healthy first beginnings in the womb. During the exciting time of planning for the arrival of a newborn, consider adding these essential nutrients to your diet to prevent serious birth defects—and to set your child up for a life of health and success.
Compare a women’s multivitamin with a men’s multivitamin and you’ll find one key difference: folate (a B-vitamin), known in its man made form as folic acid.
This vitamin is essential for women (particularly women who plan to give birth!) since a forming fetus requires adequate amounts of folate. In fact, this vitamin is particularly essential in the first few weeks of gestation, a time when many women are not aware that they are pregnant.
Subtracting folate from an expectant mother’s diet can mean serious risks including neural tube defects, which can impair a baby’s brain, spine, or spinal cord. (The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly.)
Action: If you are of reproductive age, consider taking a vitamin containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid as recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alternatively, consider eating plenty of grains fortified with folic acid or plenty of beans, peas, and leafy green, which are rich in folate.
Fun Fact: Since 1998, the United States began a mandatory folic acid fortification program for bread, flour, cornmeal, pasta, and other grain products to eliminate the risks of neural tube defects.
The National Institute of Health found that women with low levels of vitamin B-12 were three-times more likely to give birth to a child with serious birth defects, compared to those with adequate levels.
Not only that, but low levels of this essential vitamin have been linked to premature birth and even miscarriage.
Action: If you are of reproductive age, consider taking 2.4 mcg of vitamin B-12 and up your intake slightly to 2.6 mcg if you are pregnant. Vitamin B-12 can be found in many multivitamins, but consider also finding this essential vitamin in food, such as fish, meat, poultry, milk, and milk products.
Fun Fact: Although the United States does not require foods to be fortified with vitamin B-12, many food producers add this essential vitamin to cereals and plant-based milk.
At the earliest stages, a growing embryo requires iron, and yet pregnant women are most commonly deficient in this essential nutrient, causing low birth-rate, preterm births, and neural tube defects.
An estimated 50 percent of all common nutritional deficiency in the developed world is from insufficient iron intake—a problem compounded by the body’s demand for iron during pregnancy, resulting in anemia in new mothers.
Action: Whether pregnant or not, consider a diet rich in meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dried beans, and fortified grains. Although iron is found in vegetables, it’s important to note that the iron in meat is more easily absorbed into the body.
Fun Fact: Cooking in cast iron pots adds up to 80 percent more iron into your food. Consider adding this inexpensive item to your kitchen collection.