Why Are Folic Acid & Calcium Important for Pregnancy?
We all know that eating well and healthy is one of the keys to ensure you and your baby’s well-being before, during and after pregnancy. Especially during pregnancy, adequate nutrition helps with the development of your growing fetus and supports the increasing demands of your body. Among the many types of nutrients, pregnant mothers are often encouraged to consume more folic acid and calcium. Read this article, and you will learn more about folic acid and calcium!
What is Folic Acid?
Have you heard about folic acid or folate before? Do you know what these are? Well, folic acid is the man-made form of folate, a type of essential Vitamin B-9, which can be found in fortified food or vitamins. It is important for you if you are planning to get pregnant, or if you are currently pregnant, as it helps you to produce more new red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen all over your body. Lack of folic acid intake can possibly result in folate-deficiency anaemia, which is a condition where there is insufficient oxygen to be passed around your body.
Why is Folic Acid Important for Pregnant Mothers?
Everyone needs folic acid to keep being healthy, and it is even more important for you to take folic acid if you are planning to conceive, or you are currently in your first trimester of pregnancy. You must be wondering why. It is proven that folic acid protects unborn babies from getting serious defects called neural tube defects and helps in their brain development. The birth defects usually occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy, even before a woman knows she is pregnant. Folic acid also helps to prevent miscarriage. Hence, experts recommend all women should get sufficient folic acid, even if you are not planning to conceive.
What Food Contains Folic Acid?
All women need about 400 micrograms of folic acid per day to prevent fatigue, weakness and blood deficiency. For women who are pregnant, you should consider taking additional folic acid, about 600 micrograms every day, but this may vary according to your pre-pregnancy weight and other factors. You may get folic acid in two ways, either from the food you ate or from vitamins. However, this does not mean we cannot obtain sufficient amounts of folate from food! You are advised to consult your doctor in terms of your folic acid intake. Doctors would consider different factors and prescribe a suitable folic acid supplement for you throughout your pregnancy.
Folate can be found naturally in food, such as dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, fruits or hard boiled eggs. Meanwhile, folic acid is often added to refined or processed food. You may find it in your breakfast cereals, bread, pasta and white rice. Below are some examples you can easily obtain at your local grocery stores!
|Foods||Folate/ Folic Acid per 100g (mg)|
|Choy Sum, raw||425|
|Chicken Egg whole||110|
On a side note, if you have anaemia or blood deficiency, it is recommended that you eat a fruit called jujube, or also known as Chinese red dates. Red dates in Chinese diet culture are considered as a good source of blood and ‘Qi’. If your blood is in deficiency, it might cause a lack of energy, poor appetite and insomnia. In addition, it will also affect your liver and heart, which cause sleeping disorders.
Fresh jujubes are rich in vitamin C, while the dried ones are a great source of iron. Iron is responsible for the oxygen transfer in your body and improves your blood supply.
What is Calcium? Why Do You Need It During Pregnancy?
Calcium is one of the essential minerals to help develop your baby’s bones and teeth. All of us need calcium, but for pregnant mothers, it is particularly vital. During your pregnancy, your baby is building and growing the entire skeleton. Calcium not only helps on their skeleton development, but also an important nutrient for their muscle, heart, hormones and nerves.
A pregnant woman’s body will give the baby all the calcium they need, regardless if you have enough intake. In other words, if you do not consume enough calcium and replace what you have given away to your baby, your own bones will get weakened, could even run into a greater risk of osteoporosis later in life.
How Much Calcium Does a Pregnant Woman Need?
Pregnant women need around 1000 milligrams of calcium per day, while women who are younger than 18 years old need 1300 milligrams of calcium each day. In short, you might need to consider consuming four servings of calcium-rich food daily.
If you are taking prenatal vitamins, do take note that there may be some calcium in your vitamins already. You are most likely consuming an excessive amount of calcium if you take supplements. Lack of calcium can lead to some serious complications like high blood pressure, premature birth or low birth weight. But, too much calcium can cause constipation, kidney stones or even irregular heartbeat. You might not even know you are over-consuming or getting too less. Remember, check with your doctor about any vitamins you are taking and seek professional advice.
What Calcium-rich Food Should You Consider?
Your body does not produce calcium. You will need to get it from your daily meals, supplements, or fortified food. Dairy products are one of the best sources of calcium. As mentioned, you are advised to take around 1000mg of calcium daily. Two servings of fortified high calcium milk or soy milk will give you an adequate amount of calcium per day. A serving contains approximately 500mg of calcium. You may also consider taking low-fat milk or zero-fat milk, as they contain the same calcium and other nutrients you need, without adding the extra calories and fat in it. Again, you might want to check with your doctor on your intake, depending on your body weight range.
Below are some suggestions of foods that can be commonly found in your local grocery stores!
|Foods||Calcium per 100g (mg)|
|Sesame seeds, black||780|
Meanwhile, don’t forget that calcium after your pregnancy is important too, especially if you are breastfeeding! Breastfeeding mothers may lose about 3%-5% of bone mass, as you transferred some of your calcium to your breastmilk. By eating the right food after your pregnancy, you can regain your bone mass within 6 months after you stop to breastfeed. Also, for nursing mothers who are looking for feeding and nursing essentials, you may be interested in MumChecked as they have a huge variety of products that may ease your breastfeeding journey.
Remember, the best way to keep your baby healthy is to keep yourself healthy! Hence, eating well when you are expecting and during your postpartum is crucial.