Pregnant women need more folic acid, iron and calcium than before they were pregnant, and taking a prenatal vitamin will help to cover the gaps that even a well-intentioned diet may leave. Folic acid is important for reducing brain and spinal cord defects in the growing fetus. In the U.S., flour and many breakfast cereals are enriched with folic acid, and it is also found in dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, beans and citrus.
In addition to recommending a healthy, balanced diet and adding prenatal vitamins to your daily routine, your doctor will likely also advise you to avoid alcohol, caffeine and certain foods. Other foods doctors advise pregnant women to avoid include:
- Raw meats, eggs and shellfish (no uncooked sushi during pregnancy)
- Deli meats and hot dogs (which could carry listeria, a foodborne illness that's dangerous for pregnant women)
- Smoked meats (such as lox or jerky)
- Fish that may have high levels of mercury or industrial pollutants
- Soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk
On top of all that, be sure to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly before eating while you're pregnant.
Your first visit to the doctor is your opportunity to ask questions and make plans for later in your pregnancy. To learn more about how pregnancies progress and how to care for yourself during your pregnancy, follow the links on the next page.