This post is brought to you by March of Dimes and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.
Did you know that January 2020 is National Birth Defects Prevention Month? As an annual event that aims to generate awareness among women of childbearing age, families and health care providers about actions they can take to help prevent birth defects, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and March of Dimes are partnering again to raise awareness among women and their families about the actions they can take to be a healthy mom and have a healthy baby.
Going through pregnancy five times has taught me a thing or two about my body, that I didn’t realize before having kids-it is more than resilient, it’s magic. But that’s a given right?
Pregnancy is absolutely beautiful, there is no doubt about that. But having suffered through hyperemesis through four of the five pregnancies left me at times wondering is this going to affect my baby, and there has to be something that can alleviate this pain.
In case you did not know, Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is a pregnancy complication that is characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and possibly dehydration. This meant for the entire nine months I could barely eat or drink, and 99% of the time even food smells would trigger a vomiting episode that would last several hours (to this day there are foods from each pregnancy I cannot eat because I vividly remember how my body reacted during that time).
My biggest worry during this time was the possibility of the baby being born with birth defects. Since I wasn’t big on swallowing pills (and the gummies weren’t around during my first pregnancy in 2004), I only had the food really to rely on. Most birth defects develop in the first three months when a baby’s organs are forming, although they can occur at any point.
Even through the sickness the biggest and best chance that I knew for a healthy baby came from me educating myself about what my baby needed the most of, and how I can I best deliver it to her while sick.
Folic acid is one of the most important gifts that you can give your developing baby throughout their lifetime. Taking a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day (even before you become pregnant) is proven to help prevent serious birth defects of the brain and spine.
If you have a major aversion to pills like I did (and still do), eating foods that contain folate, which is the natural form of folic acid is the best choice. This could be lentils, green leafy vegetables, black beans, and orange juice. One of my favorites was to make sure that I was eating foods made from fortified grain products, which have folic acids added, these were items like bread, pasta, and cereals.
Guess what, if Taco Tuesday is your jam, foods made from fortified corn masa flour, such as cornbread, corn tortillas, tacos and tamales are also a perfect source of folic acid! If that isn’t a major win I don’t know what is!
Avoiding harmful substances during pregnancy such as smoking, alcohol and other drugs is also important. Smoking cigarettes is a cause of certain birth defects, like cleft lip and palate. While opioid use in pregnancy can cause neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) and premature birth in babies.
If you want to stop and need help here are a few resources in addition to speaking with your doctor:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or Findtreatment.gov.
I will be honest and say that it wasn’t easy, but making sure that I knew the proper sources and educating myself not only before pregnancy but during would be the key to having a healthy baby.
Check out this graphic below for more sources of Folate in foods.
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.