Pregnant women require additional iron and folic acid to meet their nutritional needs. Deficiencies in iron and folic acid during pregnancy can potentially negatively impact on the mother’s health and fetal development.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a vitamin B (vitamin B9). It naturally occurs, in the form of folate in foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, oranges, whole grains, pulses (dals) etc. It also helps to protect your unborn baby from developing neural tube defects such as spina bifida (problems related to the growth and development of the brain and spinal cord.) and some other birth defects like cleft palate and clubfoot.
You can start taking folic acid supplement as soon as you decide to try for a baby, up to three months before you conceive and you can carry on taking it (along with iron supplements) throughout pregnancy and for the first six months of breastfeeding.
Foods that contain high amounts of folic acid
• Dark Leafy Greens, like Spinach, Turnip Greens, Mustard Greens etc.
• Citrus Fruits like Papaya, Oranges, Grapes, Strawberries etc.
• Beans, Peas and Lentils
• Brussels Sprout
• Seeds and Nuts like Peanuts, Flax Seeds, Almonds etc.
What is Iron?
When you are pregnant, along with folic acid, other most important supplement is iron. This is very important supplement for the healthy growth of your baby. Iron is help to produce haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the organs and tissues in our body. When you are pregnant, your body carries more blood than usual. So your body needs more iron. If your diet does not fulfil the requirement of iron for your body needs then you may suffer from lack of iron, called iron-deficiency anaemia that is not good for your baby.
Many women in India are suffering from iron deficiency. This means that many women in India are already deficient in iron before they become pregnant.
Iron-deficiency anaemia in pregnancy increases the risk of complications, such as:
• Infant mortality
• Premature birth
• Low birth weight of the baby
Dietary sources of iron
When you are pregnant, you can get a lot of your iron from your diet. So Iron-rich foods are:
• Red meat
• Whole-grain and enriched breads and cereals
• Green leafy vegetables
• Legumes (such as beans, lentils, chickpeas)
• Some vegetables (such as pumpkin, artichoke hearts, peas, potatoes, spinach)
• Peanut butter and nut butters, such as almond butter
When you eat vitamin C rich food, you can absorb more iron. .
Great sources of vitamin C are:
• Citrus fruits and their juices
• Tomatoes and tomato sauce