WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.- If you’re a woman who’s pregnant or planning a baby this season, make a New Year’s resolution to be as healthy as you can, says the March of Dimes Foundation. The first step is to start taking a daily multivitamin containing the B vitamin folic acid, even if you’re not trying to get pregnant.
“Your health before and during pregnancy has a direct impact on your baby,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, a medical advisor to the March of Dimes and co-author of the non-profit’s book Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby: The Ultimate Pregnancy Guide. “The good news is that there are many things you can do as a mom-to-be that can protect your own health and help you have a healthy baby.”
Dr. Dolan says it’s also a good idea to eat foods that contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, including lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. In addition, some foods are fortified with folic acid, including enriched grain products such as bread, cereal, and pasta; and corn masa products such as tortilla chips and tacos.
Besides taking a daily multivitamin containing folic acid to prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine, women can take other steps to avoid infections that can hurt them and their babies during pregnancy. Foodborne illnesses, viruses, and parasites can cause birth defects and lifelong disabilities, such as hearing loss or learning problems. Other resolutions from the March of Dimes for moms-to-be:
- Be up-to-date with your vaccinations (shots). Talk to your healthcare provider about vaccinations you should receive before or during pregnancy, including your flu shot and Tdap booster.
- Don’t eat raw or undercooked meat, raw or runny eggs, unpasteurized (raw) juice or dairy products, raw sprouts — or products made with them.
- Handle foods safely. Be sure to wash all knives, utensils, cutting boards, and dishes used to prepare raw meat, fish or poultry before they come into contact with other foods.
- Maintain good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before preparing or eating foods; after being around or touching pets and other animals; and after changing diapers or wiping runny noses.
- Do not put a young child’s food, utensils, drinking cups, or pacifiers in your mouth.
- Protect yourself from animals and insects known to carry diseases such as Zika virus, including mosquitos. This includes avoiding travel to areas where the virus is circulating. Find out more at ZAPzika.org.
- Stay away from wild or pet rodents, live poultry, lizards and turtles during pregnancy.
- Let someone else clean the cat litter boxes!
Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January is Birth Defects Prevention Month, and the week of January 8 through 14 is set aside for Folic Acid Awareness Week. Join the conversation and learn more on Twitter at hashtag #prevent2protect.
“The coming year will be full of surprises. So whether you’re pregnant or just want to have children in the future, resolve to help give them a healthy start in life,” says Dr. Dolan.
The March of Dimes is the leading nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health. For more than 75 years, moms and babies have benefited from March of Dimes research, education, vaccines, and breakthroughs. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.org or nacersano.org. Find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.