I received the opportunity to race in a local sprint triathlon this weekend through Shawn’s Anomaly, a non-profit to spread awareness, help families, and raise funds towards research related to birth anomalies. I didn’t really know a whole lot about the subject before joining the team, so it’s been a great learning experience for me. I wanted to spread the awareness to others that might be in the same boat. A brief overview on the facts:
- Birth Defects (congenital anomalies) affect 1 in 30 children and are the leading cause of infant mortality.
- Congenital anomalies are structural or functional abnormalities which are present from birth. In most of the cases it is difficult identify their cause, but many birth anomalies can be prevented and treated.
- – An adequate intake of folic acid, iodine, vaccination, and adequate prenatal care for the mom are key.
I’m going to write a little about how general fitness, nutrition & lifestyle choices may help prevent birth anomalies, however I’m not a healthcare professional or registered dietician, so you can review the information more at sites like the CDC and AmericanPregnancy.org.
Food & Nutrition: It seems that getting enough Folic Acid (400mg per day) is key for prevention of birth anomalies. Most sites recommend eating foods like dark leafy greens (which are good for just about everything), citrus fruits, and cereals/rice/pastas to get folate. However, diving deeper into the subject, its seems that unless you’re eating beef liver in large qualities, taking a pre-natal vitamin with 400mg of Folic Acid is key for women of childbearing age. That’s right, you want to start taking this when you are thinking about getting pregnant, not after.
Of course, eating a diet with a variety of whole foods and plenty of vegetables doesn’t hurt the cause. Asparagus, Kale massaged with avocado, salmon with Brussels sprouts and leafy greens are a couple favorites that would work! (though eating fish during pregnancy is a bit controversial)
I also saw a few references that pasture-raised eggs contain 70% more vitamin B12 and 50% more folic acid (British Journal of Nutrition, 1974) than standard eggs. I’m a tad skeptical on these studies/findings, plus not all of the eggs you see at the grocery store that say “Pasture Raised” are anything more than a coop with a small door and 4′ of dirt outside anyway. Still, I am making the effort to buy local farm eggs as an addition to my CSA (I pick them up weekly).
Lifestyle: There are a few big hitters – not smoking, not drinking and taking the right vaccinations – which all prevent birth anomalies. But another major thing to consider is that obese women are at a higher risk of birth defects. Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 30 is recommended, and a healthy BMI is considered 18.5 – 24.9. You can calculate yours here: http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/. How can you improve your BMI? Consider your lifestyle and making some healthy changes:
- Get a workout buddy (my personal favorite)
- Sign up for an event or competition
- Seek out team activities or group classes
- Make some dietary changes: smoothies, add a few plant-based meals to your plate, cook more at home, and pack your lunches the night before.
- Get a CSA – you won’t be short of vegetables that way!
- Add a salad or leafy greens to at least one meal a day
- Get cute workout gear – SERIOUSLY, when you look good, you feel good and you want to workout and kick butt. Trust me on this one, I sometimes go biking just so I can sport a new kit.
Basically take time to take care of yourself – you deserve it!
And remember, while this is important for the female to stay healthy during pregnancy, it’s a family affair or team effort as my husband and I like to think of it. You share a lifestyle right? Keeping a healthy family diet and lifestyle takes both of you to help & motivate one another, and can only enrich your many years together!
Hopefully you found this educational – if not for yourself, maybe for some women in your life. I have a personal fundraising page and will be rocking it out Sunday for the cause!