Pregnant? Give Your Baby An I.Q. Advantage
You're trying to have a baby and while you may not think of him as a future Einstein, you want to give him every chance for a healthy brain so he can shine in school and grow up to be a happy, productive adult.
Dave Seubert, M.D., director of maternal fetal medicine and vice chief of obstetrics at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak (Mich.) offers the following tips for moms-to-be who want to give their baby every I.Q. advantage:
* Start taking folic acid (vitamin B12) when you first start trying to become pregnant, in an effort to prevent brain and spinal cord (neural tube) birth defects. By the time you miss a period and get a positive home pregnancy test, you'll have missed some opportunity to pass along this nutrient to your growing fetus. Dr. Seubert recommends at least 400 mcg a day - 4 mg if you have had a child with spina bifida or other open neural tube defect.
* Eat a diet with an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids, found in cold water fish such as salmon, flax seed, walnuts, canola oil, broccoli, cantaloupe, kidney beans, spinach, grape leaves, Chinese cabbage and cauliflower. This nutrient is essential for brain tissue growth and function, especially as they relate to vision, according to several studies.
* Reduce stress. Language development and I.Q. tended to be lower in 5-year-old children whose mothers had faced extreme stress during an ice storm in Quebec, Canada that left them without power, forcing them to stay in a shelter and lose income while off work.
* Eat hearty. Pregnancy is no excuse to go hog wild, but you'll need about 300 extra calories a day with a special emphasis on an adequate intake of calcium and iron. A consultation with a dietitian may be helpful, Dr. Seubert says.
* Check with your doctor before you take any over-the-counter medication or herbal supplement. Even licorice, recommended as a natural headache remedy, can raise blood pressure.
* Exercise. Exercise has as many health benefits in pregnancy as in the non-pregnant state. As long as your doctor has not told you to stop exercising, you can resume normal activity during pregnancy including cardiovascular and weight bearing exercises. Your doctor will guide you in reducing the intensity and duration of exercising in the trimesters of pregnancy.
* Skip the hot tub. Especially during the first trimester, the excess heat can cause birth defects of the brain and spine.
* Avoid cigarette, pipe and cigar smoke, even second-hand smoke. Don't drink alcohol or take illicit drugs.