So here goes: In a blender, mix a small banana, one half cup each of mango and pineapple, three-quarters cup of orange juice and ice.
The Centers for Disease Control and the United States Public Health Service recommend that all women ages 15 to 45 take 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. This is especially true for a woman at least one month before she becomes pregnant and throughout her pregnancy.
Folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects in a pregnant woman’s baby. Spina bifida is an example of a neural tube defect, and it can cause damage to a baby’s spine cord and nerves.
In addition to the above smoothie, a woman can get her daily allowance e of folic acid in a multivitamin and in a serving of certain fortified breakfast cereals. They are all very easy ways to help ensure the health of her baby.
Folic Acid Awareness Week, which began Sunday and runs through this Saturday, conveniently falls in January, which is also National Birth Defects Prevention Month.
That makes it a great time to go over other ways pregnant women can contribute to the future health of her baby.
• Be sure to see your health care provider regularly and start prenatal care as soon as you think you might be pregnant.
• Don’t drink alcohol, smoke or use non-prescription drugs, including illegal drugs.
• Talk to a health care provider about any medications you are taking or thinking about taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medications and dietary or herbal supplements. Don’t stop or start taking any type of medication without first talking with a doctor.
• If possible, be sure any medical conditions are under control, before becoming pregnant. Some conditions that increase the risk for birth defects including diabetes and obesity.
• Learn how to prevent infections during pregnancy.
The recent emergence of Zika in Central and South America has made the last bullet point more challenging. Zika virus is transmitted via mosquito bite, and is most predominant in Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean and Africa, although Texas and Florida have also reported Zika.
Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby’s head and brain are smaller than babies of the same age and sex, as well as other severe brain defects.
If you are pregnant, do not travel to areas with Zika. If you must travel to an area with Zika, talk to your doctor or health care provider and strictly follow steps to prevent mosquito bites during the trip. If you have a partner who lives in or has traveled to an area with Zika, use condoms from start to finish every time you have any type of sex to protect against infection, or do not have sex during the pregnancy.
But Zika isn’t the only infection to consider during pregnancy. Pregnant women should wash their hands often, including after using the bathroom or handling pets, before eating and when you are around children.
Also, do not touch or change kitty litter. Avoid unpasteurized, or raw, milk and any products made from it. Stay away from wild or pet rodents and their droppings. Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis B, and protect yourself from them.
Women who are considering becoming pregnant should also talk to their health care providers about vaccinations. It is recommended that women get the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before getting pregnant. During pregnancy, she should receive a flu vaccine as well as a Tdap vaccine that protects against whooping cough, which can be serious and even deadly to young babies.
Finally, avoid people who have an infection, and ask your doctor about group B strep. About one in four women carry these bacteria but don’t have symptoms. A swab test near the end of pregnancy will detect it, and women who do have it should talk to their doctors about how to deliver the baby safely.
The Monongalia County Health Department’s Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) program offers nutritional counseling, breastfeeding support, health screenings, medical and social service referrals and food packages to qualifying pregnant and breastfeeding women with children up to age 5.
Healthy pregnancies are much more than drinking a folic acid-rich smoothie, but it’s a start, and with the help of medical providers, WIC counselors and other resources, it’s easier to do than ever.