Councilman Mike Elam's Blog

Jan 31

[ARCHIVED] Prevent Birth Defects

The original item was published from January 31, 2017 11:14 AM to January 31, 2017 11:22 AM


Pregnant mother and father eating
One in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. Some cannot be prevented, but there are precautionsmoms-to-be can take to improve their chances for a healthy pregnancy. To help expectant and new mothers, the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program through the Division of Health Services offers the suggestions below:

  • Make regular visits with a health care provider and discuss any medical concerns.Review medications, including over-the-counter and herbal supplements, with a health care provider to discuss necessary adjustments.
  • Consume 400-600 micrograms of folic acid daily. For best results, the woman should take folic acid at least one month prior to becoming pregnant and continue through childbirth. Citrus fruits and juices, dark green, leafy vegetables, and enriched grain products like breads or cereals are high in folic acid. Supplemental vitamins are also available.
  • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, drugs and other toxic substances.
  • Avoid raw and undercooked meats, unpasteurized dairy products and fish/shellfish that are reported to be high in mercury during pregnancy.

Medical professionals recommend a balanced and nutritious diet that includes these nutrients daily to enhance the growth and development of the woman and her baby.
Photo of a fruit tray
IRON helps support the immune system and create red blood cells. A pregnant woman requires 27 milligrams of iron each day, about 9 milligrams more than normal. Red meat and fortified cereal are both great sources of iron.

CALCIUM helps create strong bones and teeth for both mother and baby. Pregnant women require approximately 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. To meet this requirement, moms should consume three servings of dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt and others) each day.

ZINC aids in cell production, brain development and tissue growth. A pregnant woman requires 11 milligrams of zinc each day. Zinc can be found in lean beef, low-fat milk products, almonds and other nuts.

CHOLINE is one of the building blocks for the brain and spinal cord. A pregnant woman needs about 450 milligrams of choline each day. The best sources are eggs, meats, oatmeal and iceberg lettuce, as this nutrient is not often found in vitamin supplements.

PROTEIN encourages the baby’s growth, especially during the second and third trimesters. It is recommended that a pregnant woman consumes about 70 grams of protein each day. Lean beef, chicken, turkey, and fish/seafood (see above) are good sources of protein.

B VITAMINS help the body utilize energy from the foods we eat. A small increase in the normal intake of B vitamins is helpful for pregnant women. They are found in lean beef, pork, poultry and enriched grains.

VITAMIN C reduces the risk of hypertension and miscarriage. Pregnant women require 85 micrograms of vitamin C, which can be obtained from citrus fruits and juices or from broccoli and bell peppers.

FLUIDS keep the body hydrated and ease discomfort. Pregnant women should try to drink about 10 cups of fluid daily. Options include water, milk, juices and selected coffees or sodas, if approved by your medical provider.

Studies have proven that women who participate in WIC have fewer low birth weight babies, experience fewer infant deaths and eat healthier. Based on nutritional requirements for optimal development, the best foods for mothers-to-be and children are low in sugar, saturated fat and cholesterol. In addition, WIC staff provides referrals to local healthcare providers and other supplemental resources in the community. Persons interested in learning more about St. Charles County’s WIC program should call 636-949-7402.

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