Safeguarding Your Baby's Health

Stating The Obvious

The cornerstones of pregnancy health include cessation of harmful habits, like smoking and drinking, a healthy diet, regular exercise and maintenance of a healthy weight. Along with these things, another essential for a healthy pregnancy is taking a prenatal vitamin to support the growth of the baby. Most Ob/Gyns will recommend a good vitamin, one with a spectrum of essential vitamins and minerals as well as folic acid.

Folic Acid And Neural Tube Defects

One of the most important things a woman can do to help prevent birth defects in her baby is to ensure she is getting enough folic acid every day. This vitamin (B9) has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of serious neural tube defects by up to 70 percent, when taken daily from prior to conception until the end of the first trimester. While the reason for the effect of folic acid on the brain is not fully understood, it is known that this vitamin is crucial in the development of DNA. Consequently, folic acid has a significant role in cell growth and development as well as tissue formation.

The most common neural tube defects are spina bifida (an incomplete closure of the spinal cord and spinal column), anencephaly (severe underdevelopment of the brain), and encephalocele (when brain tissue protrudes out to the skin from an abnormal opening in the skull). These defects occur within the first 28 days of pregnancy, usually before a woman even knows she is pregnant. When one considers that only 50 percent of pregnancies are planned, it makes sense that any woman of childbearing age should get enough folic acid-not just those women who are actively planning a pregnancy.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids For The Heart

In addition, Omega-3 fatty acids are an important nutrient for both mother and baby. For fetal health, Omega-3 acids are important to the developing infant cardiac and circulatory systems, as well as the central nervous system. They are proven effective in the proper development of the brain and eyes. Mothers with a high level of Omega-3 intake have been shown to have babies that typically display higher attention spans and advanced brain development.

It's Up To You, Mom

Babies have major growth spurts in the second and sixth weeks of conception when the new organ system begins to develop, with the heart beginning to beat at week four. This growth is dependent upon massive growth in the cellular system of the infant's body and there is a huge demand for the proper nutrients in the form of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements to be available to furnish the building blocks for proper development.

It is important for a pregnant woman to manage her nutrition well, since she is not only responsible for her own health, but also that of her unborn baby. Not all prenatal vitamins have adequate levels of essential elements, so it behoves a woman to do her research and ensure she is taking the proper quantities of vitamins, minerals, Omega-3s, and folic acid to help safeguard her baby's health.

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