Tue, Sep 26, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Expectant mothers urged to watch diet

HEALTHY BABIES:Women of childbearing age tend to have folic acid, iodine and iron levels that are below the minimum recommended by the WHO, a study showed

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The Health Promotion Administration (HPA) urged women who are pregnant or trying to conceive to ensure sufficient intake of folic acid, iodine and iron before and during pregnancy.

Having a balanced nutritional intake during pregnancy is a fundamental factor that influences a baby’s health, and folic acid, iodine and iron are especially important during this period, it said.

A national nutrition and health survey conducted from 2013 to last year showed that 6.9 percent of women of childbearing age — between 15 and 49 years old — had serum folate (folic acid) levels lower than the mininum recommended by the WHO, the HPA said.

Folate deficiency during pregnancy can lead to increased risks of babies being born with neural tube defects, including severe underdevelopment of the brain, skull and spinal cord.

Early pregnancy is a crucial period for fetal neural tube formation, so folic acid intake before and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is especially important, the agency said.

Women who are planning to conceive should consume 400 micrograms per day of folic acid while pregnant women should take 600 micrograms per day, it said.

Leafy green vegetables, soy products and livers are natural sources of folic acid, it added.

The survey also showed that 39.6 percent of women of childbearing age had urinary iodine levels below the minimum of 100 micrograms per liter recommended by the WHO.

Iodine deficiency in pregnancy can increase rates of miscarriage and fetal death, as well as babies with cretinism or impaired brain development.

Women of childbearing age should consume 140 micrograms of iodine per day and 200 micrograms per day during pregnancy, the agency said.

Kelp and seaweed are natural sources of iodine, it added.

In addition, the survey showed that 22.4 percent of women had anemia and 17.8 percent lacked sufficient iron intake — lower than the minimum required serum ferritin concentration of 12 nanograms per milliliter suggested by the WHO.

Long-term iron deficiency during pregnancy is linked to increased risks of premature birth, low birth weight and delayed mental development.

Women of childbearing age and pregnant women should consume 15 milligrams of iron per day, increasing their intake to 45 milligrams per day during the third trimester, the HPA said.

Natural food sources of iron include red meat, leafy green vegetables and soy products, the agency said.

Women who are pregnant or planning to be pregnant should maintain a balanced diet consisting of more natural food, it said.

They can consult a nutritionist, visit the agency’s Web site, mammy.hpa.gov.tw, or call the toll-free pregnancy hotline 0800-870-870 for assistance, it said.

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