Pre-pregnant? It's Never too Early to Start Being Healthy
It's a statement you hear a lot from women: "Now that I am/trying to get pregnant, what kind of vitamins should I take for the baby to be healthy? What about folic acid?" As you know, I'm not currently in the baby market, but I still think it's important for women to know that health is not something that should come at the same time as the stork. Many neural tube defects are said to occur even before most women know they are pregnant. Being optimally healthy and getting all your vitamins and nutrients, whether for yourself, your potential future little you or both, is something that should be maintained over a lifetime.
I've always had the highest respect for Kristen Suzanne and her hubby, who preemptively took a whole year before even trying to conceive, to get in the best shape and make 100% sure they were getting all the vitamins and minerals they needed to produce the healthiest child they could. Yes, they'd been healthy even before that, but when they were ready, they knew that a baby comes from both mom and dad, so both of them have to be in top shape to give their kid the best chances at life. Kudos to you guys, seriously.
Heck, even the Bush administration kind of caught on to this. I got the idea for my post's title from some federal guidelines that came out during the Bush years that with the aim of "increasing public awareness of the importance of preconception health," all women from their first menstruation to menopause should consider themselves "pre-pregnant." Give that about half of pregnancies are unplanned, these guidelines put out by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wanted women to follow this advice through their whole lives so the damage done to a fetus could be limited. Guidelines included making sure women and girls were getting enough folic acid, refraining from smoking, getting regular medical check ups, maintaining a healthy weight, and keep away from conditions including diabetes and asthma. Sounds pretty reasonable right? Yes, it's easy to find a slew of problems with this idea: sure, it's anti-choice, it should include actual sex education, it should make real birth control options readily available, and yes, it assumes that women's sole purpose in life is to pump out babies (at the time, it was believed this was for the war effort), takes a patriarchal stance over women, assumes that only women who are thinking/could become pregnant need folic acid, and yes, totally forgets that men are also part of the genetic baby pool... However, I can kind of see a kernel of truth in this madness.
Ironically enough, I was at a health clinic earlier last week and picked up a pamphlet about folic acid (whose subtitle was "it's never too early," thus also making the pre-pregnant assumption... the front cover with an ovum and sperm didn't help). Of course being a dork, my first reaction was "I should blog about this."
All of this to say, whether you are trying to get pregnant now, in ten years, or never (because yes, we should also be healthy for ourselves!), and even if you're a dude, you should be make sure you're healthy NOW! So making sure you get all your vitamins aside, let's talk folic acid since that's a big one for women. All women need folic acid, not just the pregnant or pre-pregnant ones. Folic acid (aka. folate) is one of the B vitamins essential for the health development of a baby's brain and spine during the early pregnancy weeks. More generally, folic acid maintains healthy red blood cells and prevents anemia (so make sure you're getting enough iron too, by the way!), healthy cell development (which is happening as we speak!), brain, bone, skin, and heart health, prevents obesity, depression, and more. Given all of those benefits, it also really helps the elderly and our XY-chromosoned counterparts to maintain health folic acid levels too.
How much do we need? The general guidelines suggest a minimum of 0.4 mg every day. There are plenty of natural (and vegan!) ways to get your folic acid every day, here are just a few (each of these contain at least 0.05 mg per 1/2 cup serving:
-lettuces (romaine is best, but iceburg and boston work too) and greens (spinach, kale, and friends)
-natural peanut butter (per 2 tbsp)
-beans (black, kidney, red, pinto, navy, white, etc.)
So start being healthy now, for whoever it is you're doing it for! Also, for some fantastic pregnancy nutrition advice, check out mommy-to-be Laury's blog for posts on on iron and folic acid. And while we're on a lady topic, remember the 15% Luna Pad discount being offered through my blog until April 30th!