Preconception is a very exciting time for you and your partner, as you have decided to take the next step in your relationship by planning for a baby! There are several things that you can do during this preconception period, including:
- Take folic acid
- Monitor your diet
- Make lifestyle adjustments
- Address health issues
- Begin fertility planning.
Also, if you are thinking about getting pregnant, or you are able to get pregnant, try to take care of your health as much as you can. Keep in mind that one-half of all pregnancies are not planned, and women often don't realize that they are pregnant during the first couple of weeks. These are good reasons why you should always take care of your health. Your baby is counting on you for the best start at life.
The Importance of Folic Acid
During preconception (and in early pregnancy), it is important to get enough folic acid. Research has shown that folic acid (or folate) can help keep your baby from having serious birth defects.
If you don't get enough folic acid, your baby's spine may not form right, resulting in a condition called spina bifida
. Also, without enough folic acid, your baby's brain may not form or may only partly form -- a condition called anencephaly. All of these defects occur during the first 28 days of pregnancy -- usually before a woman even knows she's pregnant.
Get 400 micrograms (or 0.4 mg) of folic acid daily from foods fortified with folic acid, from a vitamin, or from a folic acid pill before you get pregnant. If you are taking a vitamin or a folic acid pill, continue to take it during the first three months of your pregnancy. The folic acid is very important in the early development of your baby -- generally during the time you will not know you are pregnant.
Many doctors will prescribe a vitamin for you that has folic acid (many prenatal vitamins
have folic acid in them). But you also can buy vitamins or folic acid pills at the drugstore or grocery store. Taking folic acid in a pill is the best way to be sure you're getting enough. You could get your folic acid through food alone, but it is hard to know if you're getting enough. Some foods with folate include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Kidney beans
- Orange juice and other citrus fruits
- Whole grain products.
Folic acid is also added to some foods like enriched breads, pastas, rice, and cereals.