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Information for Latinas

Here are some things you need to know before you get pregnant

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Folic acid

Why is it important?

The first 28 days of pregnancy is the most important part for the development of a baby's brain and spinal cord (neural tube). Folic acid helps prevent problems such as spina bifida and anencephaly, both of which cause severe complications after the baby is born. Unfortunately most women do not know they are pregnant during this time and fail to take enough folic acid to prevent these defects.  


What can I do? It is recommended that all women take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid a day. 
Folic acid is a B-vitamin that is found in the traditional foods eaten by Latinos. Here are some foods that have folic acid in them:
  • Pinto beans
    1 cup = 294 micrograms of folic acid; 74%
  • Avocado
    1 cup = 90 micrograms of folic acid; 23%
  • Tomatoes
    1 cup = 27 micrograms of folic acid; 7%
  • Papaya
    1 = 115 micrograms of folic acid; 29%

However the amount of folic acid in these foods may not be enough to meet your daily requirement. Taking a multivitamin with folic acid daily is the best way to get 100% of what your body needs.
Image of avocado
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Exercise and nutrition

Why is it important? Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to give birth to babies with birth defects and have a higher chance of fetal and post-birth deaths. Being overweight and obese also poses complications for the mom-to-be.
What can I do? Eat a healthy diet
Traditional Latino food staples such as rice, beans and fresh fruits and vegetables will give you all the vitamins, nutrients and good taste that American fast food and junk foods cannot. Instead of running out and grabbing the quickest and greasiest meal, try cooking at home with your friends and family and whip up a feast that includes all of the goodies you need to keep your body healthy. Don’t forget folic acid friendly foods!
Along with healthy eating, maintaining a healthy weight also means exercising regularly. This does not mean that you have to go to the gym to work out, there are little things that you can do everyday that can make a big difference:
  • Walk/bike instead of driving short distances
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Exercise while watching tv
  • Join in a quick game of soccer
  • Go dancing
Aim for a healthy weight
A person with a healthy weight will have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or less. BMI is based on your height and weight. It gives an estimate of how much body fat you have.
All of these healthy and fun habits will put you in the best shape to ensure that you will have the healthiest baby possible.
Image of pinto beans 
Image of woman on scale 
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Smoking and alcohol

Why is it important? Smoking and drinking alcohol can cause a wide range of physical and mental complications for a developing baby, including:
  • Mental retardation
  • Learning/emotional/behavioral problems
  • Heart, face and other organ defects
  • Lifelong problems with no cure
Smoking and drinking during pregnancy also increase the risk of miscarriages, premature births and still births.

What can I do? No amount of alcohol or cigarette smoke is safe during pregnancy.
Since most women do not know they are pregnant early on, it is important if you are planning to get pregnant, to quit the habit.
There are plenty of resources out there to help you quit. Visit the links below for some contacts and more information.
Image of cigarette butt 
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Chronic diseases

Why is it important? Taking care of chronic conditions - such as diabetes, hypertension, and thyroid complications - is an important part of planning a pregnancy. Not taking care of these diseases can result in birth complications such as:
  • Neural tube defects
  • Organ defects
  • Miscarriage
  • Premature births
  • Large babies (requiring a c-section birth)
What can I do? You and your medical provider can come up with a plan to help manage your chronic disease. It is important that you stick to this plan when you decide to have a baby to make sure that their development will not be affected..


 Image of stethoscope 
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Why is it important? Certain illness such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella are all preventable with vaccinations. However, if you are not vaccinated, these illness can cause birth complications for you and your future baby.
What can I do? Visit your doctor and make sure you are up to date on all of your vaccines


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Toxic substances

Why is it important? Toxic chemicals can have a dangerous effect on your pregnancy. Exposure to these can result in serious birth defects, premature birth or even miscarriage and still-birth.
Exposure can also affect your ability to conceive a child.
What can I do? Avoid all toxic substances that you can, including:
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Herbicides
  • Air pollution
  • Chlorine
  • Toxoplasms (parasites from raw meat, kitty litter)

Read labels on all products you buy to make sure they are safe to use and cut down on the amount of toxins you bring into your home. 

  Image of cigarette smoke 
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Talk with a health care provider

Why is it important? Your health care provider is your best friend when you are trying to become pregnant. They can help keep you on the right track to have a healthy baby by making sure you are eating right, exercising, managing your current illness and giving you general advice on how to have a successful pregnancy. If you have a question, they are happy to answer your questions.

What can I do?

Visit your health care provider and get the answers to your questions! It is also a good idea to have your partner join you to make sure both of you are on the same page as well as both doing your part to have a happy and healthy family.


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Readiness to have a baby

Why is it important? Babies are adorable, but having one requires a lot of preparation, and once they arrive they require constant attention.
What can I do? The most important thing you can do is to be sure you are ready to start a family. This means that you and your partner are both emotionally, physically and financially ready to have a baby.
  • Babies are expensive! Look at your budget and plan ahead so the costs are easier to manage.
  • Being a parent is a full-time job. Before you get pregnant, think about whether you’re emotionally ready to have a baby. It’s important to learn how to reduce your stress before you get pregnant. There are many things you can do to reduce your stress, like meditation.

Communication is key when deciding to have a baby. Talk with your partner about your plans and even include your friends and family. They will be your support system throughout your pregnancy and make sure that you do all that you can to have a healthy baby. 
 Image of young woman thinking 
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