If you’re a woman of childbearing age, you should be thinking about your health.
Medical research shows that a mother’s health before and during the nine months of pregnancy not only affects a baby’s development in the womb, but also influences the child’s health through adulthood.
First 5 Yolo offers information about how to take care of your health if you are thinking about becoming pregnant and once you are pregnant. Executive Director Julie Gallelo noted, “First 5 Yolo funds several programs to ensure babies are born healthy and ready to succeed once they enter the world and it starts with a healthy pregnancy.”
* Prenatal care: Take a prenatal vitamin every day. They contain folic acid and iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc and calcium.
Folic acid can help reduce the chances of neural tube defects by up to 70 percent. Start taking a prenatal vitamin or 400 micrograms of folic acid at least one month before you become pregnant.
Foods like beans and legumes, citrus fruits and juices, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, poultry, pork, fish and shellfish all contain healthy amounts of folate.
* Eat right, not twice: Research suggests that women should increase their caloric intake only by 10 percent. Usually, pregnant women only need an additional 300 calories a day — about half a cup of nuts or two cups of milk.
Eat lots of vegetables and fruit; protein from lean meats, eggs and nuts; and low-fat dairy products like cheese, yogurt and milk, and steer clear of calories that come from added sugars and solid fats.
You should get 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day to prevent bone loss.
Eat iron-rich foods such as red meat, salmon, eggs, tofu, dark poultry, enriched grains, beans and peas and dark green leafy vegetables.
Omega-3 fatty acids boost your baby’s brain development before birth.
Choose fish that are high in omega-3s but low in mercury, which can harm a fetus’ nervous system. Avoid swordfish, shark, king mackerel, tilefish and, some experts now say, tuna. Top picks include wild Alaskan salmon, Atlantic mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies.
* Keep fit: Most experts recommend gaining about 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.
Regular exercise helps prevent excess weight gain, improve sleep, boost your mood, improve circulation and lessen recovery time.
Low-impact, moderate-intensity activities such as walking and swimming are great.
Talk to your doctor before beginning or continuing any exercise regimen.
Drink enough water (about 10 cups per day) to prevent dehydration that can lead to headaches, nausea, cramps, edema and can trigger preterm labor.
* Know the “don’ts”: Say no to alcohol. Even as little as one drink a week has been linked to behavioral problems in children.
Quit smoking. Smoking is the most preventable cause of poor pregnancy outcomes in the nation. Smoking can cause miscarriages, bleeding, premature babies and other complications during pregnancy. Plus, infants are three times more likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome when their mothers are smokers.
First 5 California sponsors the California Smokers’ Helpline (1-800-NO-BUTTS) to provide parents who smoke or use tobacco with free resources to quit. Help is available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
Limit caffeine intake to about a 12-ounce cup of coffee per day.