If you are considering pregnancy, it is time to focus on your health and more specifically, your diet. Following a healthy diet in the months leading up to pregnancy will not only make it easier for you to conceive but will also keep you comfortable throughout your pregnancy while helping to ensure your baby's health.
Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy will get you off to a good start. In particular, you should make sure you are getting plenty of the following nutrients in the months leading up to your pregnancy.
Folate is a B vitamin that plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. It also helps ensure your baby's nervous system develops properly. Mothers who get enough folate in their diets before and during pregnancy are less likely to have babies with spina bifida and other spinal cord defects. Some studies also suggest that folate increases fertility and decreases the risk of premature birth.
When you're trying to conceive, aim for at least 400 mcg of folate per day. Good sources include spinach, broccoli, asparagus and citrus fruits. Beans and lentils are also high in folate, as are many fortified breakfast cereals.
When you become pregnant, your body will focus on building strong, healthy bones for your baby. Calcium is one of the primary components of strong bones. Unfortunately, if your own calcium levels are inadequate, your body may begin leeching calcium from your bones and using it to form your baby's bones. This loss of calcium increases your risk of osteoporosis as you age. Low calcium levels during pregnancy may also cause cramping.
Women considering pregnancy should aim to consume at least 1000 mg of calcium per day. Dairy products are the best-known sources of calcium, but you can also get calcium from leafy greens, beans and fortified foods like orange juice and oatmeal.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is also essential for your own bone health and that of your baby. It helps your body lay down calcium in the bones. Women who are deficient in vitamin D may also be at a higher risk of preeclampsia, a condition marked by an increase in blood pressure and swelling during pregnancy.
Vitamin D deficiency is very common in the U.S. By some estimates, up to 60 percent of the U.S. population may not be getting enough of this important nutrient! Your body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, but many people do not get enough sun exposure, especially in the winter months, to keep vitamin D levels within a normal, healthy range. So consuming vitamin D-rich foods can help.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 600 IU for all women, including those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. However, depending your own needs and possible history of deficiency, your doctor may recommend you consume more. Good food sources of vitamin D include fish, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified milk and juice.
If you plan to get your vitamin D from fish, make sure you choose salmon, tuna, tilapia, cod or catfish, as these fish are generally lower in mercury, a toxin best avoided before and during pregnancy.
Iron is essential for producing healthy red blood cells for both you and your baby. If you have low iron levels going into your pregnancy, you are more likely to feel fatigued and exhausted throughout the pregnancy. Very low iron levels may increase the risk of your baby being born with a low birth weight.
Women who are pregnant need about 27 mg of iron per day, so if you are trying to conceive, this is a good intake to aim for. Sources of iron include red meat, liver, seafood, beans and green vegetables.
Taking prenatal vitamins is another good way to ensure you get enough of these and other important nutrients. Contact your OBGYN to learn more about the best prenatal vitamins and how to improve your health leading up to pregnancy. If you're looking for an OBGYN in the Boca Raton area, contact Dr. Xiao-Mei Zeng today.