Eating Right Before Pregnancy
There is no special diet that will help you get pregnant. However, if you are considering pregnancy, you should eat a balanced diet and take a vitamin and mineral supplement that includes at least 0.4 milligrams (400 micrograms) of folic acid. Folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects, especially problems with the baby's spine, such as spina bifida. You should also avoid vitamins with high doses of Vitamin A. Steer clear of herbal supplements, because we don't have good studies on the safety of herbs in pregnancy.
If you drink alcohol or use drugs, stop before you get pregnant to protect your developing baby. Also, cut down on caffeine when you are trying to get pregnant. Women who consume more than 250 mg of caffeine a day -- about 2 cups of coffee, or 5 cans of soda -- may have a harder time getting pregnant and may increase their risk of miscarriage.
It's also best to limit the amount of seafood you eat. Seafood contains methyl mercury, which in large quantities, can cause birth defects. The FDA recommends that women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant consume no more than 12 ounces of fish a week, and avoid large ocean fish such as shark, tilefish, king mackerel, and swordfish. No more than 6 ounces per week of albacore tuna and Atlantic salmon should be consumed during pregnancy. Tilapia, cod, salmon (excluding that from the Atlantic), crab, shrimp, sardines, and canned chunk light tuna are good sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. They can be safely consumed in amounts up to 12 ounces per week.
To ensure you are getting all the nutrients you and your baby need, it's best to discuss your nutritional needs with your doctor before you become pregnant, and again during your pregnancy.
Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. A.D.A.M. Editorial Update: 06/11/2014
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