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PRENATAL CARE STARTS BEFORE YOU ARE PREGNANT

by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | January 8th, 2017

PRENATAL CARE STARTS BEFORE YOU ARE PREGNANT

What typically happens – you miss your period, go the store and get a home pregnancy test. The test is positive. You call the doctor’s office and set up an appointment for prenatal care.

Ideally, what should happen is that you and your partner talk about having a baby. You decide that you are ready. You call the doctor’s office and schedule a visit to talk about what it means to start a family. This is the preconception appointment. At that visit, you inform your doctor that you are ready to start a family. The doctor reviews your history and orders tests that maybe necessary based on your history. The doctor will make sure you are up to date with your vaccines. The doctor will then prescribe vitamins that contain folic acid – minimum 400 mcg or 0.4 mg. The doctor will tell you that you should take the folic acid at least one month before you become pregnant and you will continue to take the vitamins until you deliver.

January 8th starts Folic Acid Awareness Week. Folic acid is a B vitamin that our body uses to make new cells. It is important for the brain and spine of the fetus. You want to get folic acid in your system before pregnancy because the nervous system of the baby starts to develop the first four weeks of pregnancy. By taking folic acid, we can prevent neural tube defects (problems with the spine of the baby). Examples of neural tube defects include spina bifida or anencephaly. If you have had a baby with a neural tube defect, you will need a higher dose of folic acid before your next pregnancy.

Although neural tube defects can occur with any baby, it has been found to occur more often in Hispanic babies primarily because Latinas in the U.S. consume less folic acid. This is due to lack of information regarding folic acid.

Since half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, it is important that all women capable of becoming pregnant be on folic acid. The natural form of folic acid is folate. You will need to take a lot of food to get the amount of folic acid through folate that is recommended. It is better to take a multivitamin containing folic acid or food enriched with folic acid like breakfast cereals. Read the labels.

Action:

  1. If you are a woman of reproductive age (capable of becoming pregnant), make sure you are taking at least 400 mcg or 0.4 mg of folic acid
  2. If you have passed the stage of making babies, please encourage your loved ones of reproductive age to take folic acid.

For more information on folic acid, click here.

 

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The book discusses common gynecological and women’s health issues in a series of witty and entertaining letters. These letters, all educational, offer suggestions on what approaches to take in tackling the medical problems that typically bring women to an ob/gynecologist. The letters are spiced with art, a poem and quotes. Although its emphasis is on gynecology and women’s health, it touches on some other medical issues that make women visit their doctors.

The second half of the book briefly discusses the most common gynecological conditions and also provides an overview of sexually transmitted infections. A list of annotated websites dealing with the different topics in the book is provided for the reader who wants to pursue each subject in depth.




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