Eat healthy and get folic acid
Eating healthy is important for everyone. A healthy diet
helps protect against certain diseases and provides energy
to the body. Poor nutrition before getting pregnant and during
pregnancy can cause a baby to grow too slowly during pregnancy
(growth retardation). Growth retardation can lead to premature
(early) birth, fetal distress, or death. Poor nutrition can
also increase the risk of some birth defects of the spinal
cord and brain. Learn more about nutrition
and resources available to pregnant women.
Follow these daily guidelines for a healthy diet:
- Include a variety of fruits and vegetables
- New guidelines recommend
two cups fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables
- Limit the amount of fat you eat
- Choose meats lower in fat
- Cut down on or cut out fried foods
- Keep trans fats as low as possible
- Get enough fiber
- Whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, bran muffins,
and oatmeal), beans, fruits and vegetables are good
sources of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Eat 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day
- Include calcium in your diet every day.
- Low-fat dairy products such as 1% milk, yogurt and
low-fat cheeses are good choices
- Limit alcoholic beverages
- If you drink, limit the amount you drink. Avoid
binge drinking (5 or more drinks within a few hours)
Pay particular attention to getting enough calcium,
iron and folic acid. For more specific information,
talk to your doctor or nurse, or ask them to refer you
to a nutritionist in their practice or at the local health
Get Folic Acid
Taking folic acid, a B vitamin, is recommended for women
(and men) ages 14 to 60+ years. Getting 400
micrograms of folic acid in a daily multivitamin before getting
pregnant, can reduce the risk of some serious birth defects (like
neural tube birth defects) by 50 to 70 percent. Folic acid
taken throughout life can help lower the risk of heart attacks,
stroke and some cancers.
To learn more about the benefits of folic acid, see Why "get
folic?" and visit the N.C.
Folic Acid Council's Web site. For a handy guide to
sources of folic acid, download a copy of " Love
Your Body Love Yourself." (If this piece takes
too long to download, see the plain
Be a Healthy Weight
For women who want to increase their chances of having
a healthy pregnancy, an important step is to have a
body weight that is in the "normal range" for their
size before they get pregnant.
Women who are underweight before they get pregnant are at
greater risk of having their baby born with a low birthweight
(less than five and a half pounds). These babies may be born
too small to be healthy or to survive. Women who weigh too
little need to eat more healthy foods and try to gain weight
before getting pregnant.
Women who are overweight or obese before they get pregnant
are at greater risk of having gestational diabetes (diabetes
during pregnancy) and other complications. These babies have
an increased risk of having some birth defects. Women who
weigh too much need to learn to eat healthy foods and exercise,
so they can lose weight before getting pregnant.
For more specific information, talk to your doctor or nurse,
or ask them to refer you to a nutritionist in their practice
or at the local health department.
NC Preconception Health Campaign
County Directory - WIC offices around the state
WomensHealth.gov The Office on Women's Health (OWH), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), works to improve the health and sense of well-being of all U.S. women and girls. OWH serves as the focal point for women's health activities across HHS offices and agencies and leads HHS efforts to ensure that all women and girls achieve the best possible health.
Guidelines for Americans 2015
Choose My Plate
For more health information, search MedlinePlus
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Last updated: January 2015