The Pregnancy Eat Right Guide

Fuel up on folic acid.

Although folic acid, the man made form of the B vitamin folate, is important throughout pregnancy for producing red blood cells and staving off anemia and premature delivery, it's most critical during the first month, to prevent spina bifida and other neural-tube birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in fact, estimates that up to 70 percent of neural-tube defects could be prevented with adequate folic-acid intake.

Because many women aren't aware they're expecting until weeks into their pregnancy, it's crucial for all women of childbearing age to get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. During pregnancy, the need jumps to 600 mcg. Synthetic folic acid, which also helps ward off heart disease, is absorbed at nearly twice the rate as the natural form, so get the bulk of your daily requirement in a supplement, says Ward. Breads and cereals fortified with folic acid are excellent sources, too. Lentils, spinach, asparagus, and orange juice are also high-folate foods.

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