Bringing a healthy baby into the world is top priority for expecting mothers. This is why folic acid and omega-3 are two nutrients you simply can’t do without. Adding foods that are rich in these vitamins to your pregnancy nutrition plan can help your baby grow properly in the uterus.
Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids During Pregnancy
Omega-3 is a type of polyunsaturated fat that is important for the health of both you and your baby. Omega-3 is found in high concentrations in the brain, so it is vital for optimum brain development. This nutrient also helps with the formation of your unborn baby’s retinas and nervous system.
If you don’t get enough omega-3 in your diet, your fetus will take what he needs from your own stores and leave your body deficient. This can increase your risk of preterm labor, cesarean birth and postpartum depression.
Studies suggest that babies who are exposed to plenty of omega-3 in the womb have greater attention spans and higher visual acuity than infants who were not exposed to this nutrient. Over the long-term, adequate levels of omega-3 reduces the likelihood of developmental and behavioral problems in children later in life.
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially important during the third trimester when your baby is developing most of her brain system. Most experts recommend pregnant mothers get 250 mg of omega-3 in their diets each day.
Benefits of Folic Acid During Pregnancy
Folic acid is a form of vitamin B that’s vital to have during the early stages of pregnancy. Being deficient in this nutrient can increase your risk of having a baby born with a neural tube defect known as spina bifida.
Spina bifida causes the spine not to close completely, and the nerves that control leg movements and other functions are left exposed.
This condition can range from mild to severe and cause varying degrees of paralysis, incontinence, mental retardation, learning disabilities or meningitis.
Doctors aren’t exactly sure what causes spina bifida, but some of the risk factors have been identified. They include:
• family history of neural tube defects
• folic acid deficiency
• being Caucasian or Hispanic
• taking certain anti-seizure medications while pregnant
• being obese
• hyperthermia during the early months of pregnancy
Foods that Contain Omega-3 and Folic Acid
The body can’t make omega-3, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods that contain this nutrient. Excellent sources of omega-3 include anchovies, wild salmon, sardines, herring, dark green veggies, flaxseed oil, walnuts and organic eggs.
If you feel you are not getting enough omega-3 in your diet, taking fish oil supplements can help. Talk to your doctor before adding supplements to your diet.
Spina bifida usually happens within the first four weeks of pregnancy. This is why it’s important to have enough folic acid in your body even before you conceive. Experts recommend women get 400 mcg of folic acid per day prior to pregnancy. Once you’re pregnant, you should increase your intake of this vitamin to 600 mcg.
If you are at an increased risk for having a baby with spina bifida, your doctor may prescribe a larger dose of folic acid to help reduce the risk. Although taking prenatal vitamins will likely give you the folic acid you need everyday, it’s still important to eat foods that contain this nutrient.
Foods that contain folic acid include citrus fruits, dark green vegetables, beans and egg yolks.
Having a healthy baby is what matters most. Eating foods that are rich in omega-3 and folic acid can help you accomplish this goal by providing your fetus with some of the things he needs to develop properly in the womb.