Just one in five women take folic acid daily in the lead up to conception, a survey from baby charity Tommy’s found.
The study found that many women are unaware of the health benefits of taking the supplement while trying to conceive.
The importance of a healthy diet and exercise before conception is also widely unknown, with many people assuming that good health during pregnancy is all that matters.
However, from stopping smoking before trying for a baby to giving up alcohol as soon as possible, there are lots of ways women can prepare for pregnancy.
Let’s take a look at some of the key preconception health suggestions from Tommy’s. The earlier they’re implemented the better. The health of mother and baby can improve by following this advice before stopping contraception:
- Take 400mcg of folic acid daily
- Quit smoking
- Stop drinking alcohol to reduce the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight
- Introduce plenty of wholegrain, unsaturated fats, lentils and beans to your diet
- Reach a healthy weight
- Limit caffeine intake to 200mg a day (two mugs of instant coffee)
- Do regular, moderate exercise
- Speak to a GP for medication advice
Folic acid is an important but often overlooked aspect of healthy conception. It needs time to build up in the body, so the earlier prospective mothers start taking it the better.
In the early weeks of pregnancy, folic acid can help to reduce the likelihood of the baby developing defects when the neural tube is developing.
Folic acid can be found in foods such as broccoli, spinach and chickpeas, but a healthy diet alone isn’t always enough to prevent health problems arising in the baby. Taking a 400 microgram supplement daily can help. Experts advising taking these supplements until 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Professor Lesley Regan, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: “Focusing on the importance of maintaining a healthy diet and weight prior to conception will not only improve the health of individuals, but also the health and quality of life of future generations.”