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Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a wonderful experience for both partners. A healthy pregnancy should last approx 40 weeks, but it also come’s with its up’s and down’s including morning sickness, aches and pains, swelling of the ankles and much more.

Folic acid (a B vitamin) is the only vitamin supplement that is recommended to be taken before pregnancy for women who are otherwise eating a balanced diet.
Folic acid is needed for the development of healthy red blood cells. Adequate intake of folic acid also decreases the chance of a baby being born with a defect of the neural tube, where the baby's brain and spinal cord are formed. One example of a neural tube defect is spina bifida, where an area of spinal cord is not properly enclosed. This can cause problems such as paralysis of the legs and lack of control of bladder and bowels. The baby's neural tube is completely formed by the fourth week of pregnancy - when many women have not even realised they are pregnant.

It is therefore best to start taking folic acid supplements while preparing for pregnancy or as soon as a woman realises she is pregnant. 400 micrograms (mcg, mg) is the recommended daily dose, which is over and above the usual recommended dietary intake of 200 micrograms. Folic acid occurs naturally in fresh dark green vegetables such as broccoli, peas, green beans and spinach. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid and it is also found in wholemeal bread.

A higher dose of folic acid is recommended for some women. It is very important that women who have previously had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who have epilepsy or diabetes, consult a GP about folic acid supplementation before trying to conceive
Eating a healthy diet before and during pregnancy is important which means that the body has adequate stores of vitamins and minerals. A nutritious, well-balanced diet includes foods rich in protein such as meat, fish, eggs and pulses; dairy foods which supply calcium; starchy foods such as cereals, bread, potatoes and pasta; plus plenty of fruit and vegetables that supply vitamins and fibre. It’s best to avoid a lot of sugary, salty or fatty foods.
A well-balanced vegetarian diet should provide all that is needed, but vegans may need to get advice on taking supplements such as calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
An adequate intake of folic acid is particularly important for all women of child bearing age (see below).
There are also certain foods that women should avoid pre-pregnancy. These include:
• liver and large quantities of vitamin A in supplements,
• unpasteurised dairy products,
• raw eggs,
• pâtés,
• soft cheese.

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