How should women prepare for pregnancy? What should they do to be as healthy as possible to conceive, grow and raise a baby? I have two things on my mind as I try to answer these questions. One is an email from Nannette who wonders if she should be taking prenatal vitamins while she's trying to get pregnant with baby number two. The other is a news report about a 59-year-old woman in Paris who gave birth to triplets this week. That's right—59 years old. Triplets. Uh-huh. Quick math: She'll be 81 before they'll be old enough to buy beer here in the US.
I'll start with Nannette, because though I don't know how old she is, I think she's already trying to protect her child and herself for their lives together. Maybe I'm reading too much into her simple question, but I think she wants to make sure her child gets everything he/she needs to be healthy. She wants to keep herself well so she'll be in top-notch condition for all the physical, spiritual and mental challenges that come with raising a child. The simple answer: Any good multivitamin is fine, as long as it has at least .4 mg of folic acid. Folic acid helps reduce chances of neural tube defects like spina bifida. If you have any family history of neural tube defects, you'll need 4 mg daily. It's OK to take prenatal vitamins before you're pregnant but they might be more expensive.
You'll also want to make sure your diet is healthy, clean up any bad habits (smoking, drinking, etc.) and get enough exercise. Along with good prenatal care, you'll be doing your best to ensure a healthy pregnancy and baby. You'll want to continue those healthy habits for the rest of your life so you'll be around to raise that baby to adulthood.
Now, about that woman in Paris. Again I say: 59! Triplets! What was she thinking? Obviously, I don't know. There must be a heck of a back-story here because why else would someone have a baby (or three) when they know they have a good chance of not living to raise him/her (or them). I've heard of women with cancer who want to leave a child for their husband. I've heard of women with such strong family connections that they are, in essence, having their children for another family member, not for themselves. There was another woman in the news recently who delivered her own grandchild at the age of 61 through infertility treatments and surrogacy. On the other end of the spectrum, the US Census Bureau reports that 20% of women in their 40s have no children. That's a 50% increase in the past 30 years. We live in amazing times with so many options.
So many women are struggling with infertility and I'm grateful infertility treatments are able to help wonderful parents get pregnant. If you're over 40, you face some big challenges. We're not spring chickens anymore and yet, as a generation, 40-something is still young enough and healthy enough to get all the way through those 21 years it takes to turn a baby into an adult. How about 45? 50? Again, on the other end of the age spectrum, more teenagers are getting pregnant these days with an increase of 3% in the last 10 years. Teenagers and their children face greater health risks and more poverty than their adult counterparts.
Where do we draw the line between being able to have a baby physically and being too old or too young to raise a baby in a conscious and healthy manner? Big questions, right? I don't have the answer. Sorry about that. I'm leaving you with food for thought.
Got a question for Jeanne? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.