Every single day, Nigeria loses about 145 women of childbearing age, making her the second largest contributor to the maternal mortality rate in the world, according to UNICEF. In Nigeria, over one third of pregnant women do not attend Antenatal Care (ANC) service during pregnancy. According to a study that evaluated barriers to the use of ANC services in Nigeria from the perspective of non-users.
It’s always important to eat a balanced diet and it’s even more important when you’re pregnant because what you eat is the main source of nutrients for your baby. However, many women don’t get enough iron, folate, calcium, vitamin D, or protein. So when you are pregnant, it is important for you to increase the amounts of foods you eat with these nutrients.
Most women can meet their increased needs with a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you should try to eat a variety of foods from these basic food groups. If you do, you are likely to get all the nutrients you need for a healthy pregnancy.
What a woman eats and drinks during pregnancy is her baby’s main source of nourishment. So, experts recommend that a mother-to-be’s diet should include a variety of healthy foods and beverages to provide the important nutrients a baby needs for growth and development.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that taking your routine antenatal drugs can enhance your health and that of your unborn child. Pregnancy routine drugs in Nigeria include:
Folic Acid: Folic acid is a pregnancy superhero! Taking a prenatal vitamin with the recommended 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Take it every day and go ahead and have a bowl of fortified cereal, too.
Why take folic acid in pregnancy?
Folic acid is a vitamin that helps your baby’s neural tube grow. The neural tube is part of the baby’s nervous system. Folic acid supplements have been shown to dramatically cut the risk of having a baby with spina bifida or other problems affecting the baby’s spine and neural tube.
Some women who do not get enough folic acid may be at risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (spina bifida). As we don’t know who is at risk, it is recommended that all women take a folic acid supplement from three months before conception up to at least 12 weeks of pregnancy.
How much folic acid should I take in pregnancy?
You need to take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day – you should take this from before you are pregnant until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
Some people may need to take a bigger dose of folic acid. This can be prescribed by GPs if you are planning a pregnancy or are in the early stages of pregnancy and if you:
- (or the baby’s father) have had spina bifida
- have had a previous baby with spina bifida
- (or the baby’s father) have a family history of neural tube defects
- have diabetes
- have a high Body Mass Index (over 30)
- are taking medication for epilepsy.
When you’re pregnant, you need about twice the amount of iron as you did before you were expecting because your body uses iron to make extra blood for your baby. And yet, about 50% of pregnant women don’t get enough of this important mineral. Eating iron-rich foods and taking extra iron as your doctor recommends can help keep your iron level in check.
What Are the Benefits of Iron?
Your body uses iron to make extra blood (hemoglobin) for you and your baby during pregnancy. Iron also helps move oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and to your baby’s. Getting enough iron can prevent a condition of too few red blood cells that can make you feel tired, called iron deficiency anemia. Having anemia can cause your baby to be born too small or too early.
When Should I Start Taking Iron?
According to the CDC, you should start taking a low-dose iron supplement (30 mg a day) when you have your first prenatal appointment. In most cases, you will get this amount of iron in your prenatal vitamin.
How Much Iron Should I Take?
You’ll need at least 27 milligrams (mg) of iron every day during your pregnancy. While you’re breastfeeding, get at least 9 mg of iron every day if you’re 19 or older. Breastfeeding moms 18 and younger need 10 mg of iron.
What Foods Are High in Iron?
You can find iron in meat, poultry, and plant-based foods as well as in supplements. There are two types of iron in foods.
Heme iron- is the type your body aborbs best. You get heme iron in beef, chicken, turkey, and pork.
Nonheme – iron is the other type, which you can find in beans, spinach, tofu, and ready-to-eat-cereals that have added iron.
Some iron-rich foods include: Beef liver (3 ounces) — 5.2 mg, Chicken liver (3 ounces) — 11 mg
Another routine antenatal drug in Nigeria is calcium. The daily recommended amount of calcium for women who are pregnant is 1,000 milligrams per day. Most women get about 800 milligrams of calcium per day in a regular, healthy diet, with those who have autoimmune diseases or who are lactose intolerant getting even less. Calcium is an important mineral and nutrient during pregnancy because it helps build strong teeth, bones, muscles, and nerves during development. It also helps a baby build a healthy heart.
The WHO guideline states that, “In populations where calcium intake is low, calcium supplementation as part of antenatal care is recommended for the prevention of pre-eclampsia among pregnant women, particularly among those at higher risk of hypertension.”
It can be hard to know if a medicine is safe for your baby. Most medicines are not studied in pregnant women. That’s because researchers worry about how the medicines might affect the baby. But some medicines have been taken for so long by so many women that doctors have a good idea of how safe they are. Talk to your doctor or midwife before you take any medicines.
What medicines should you avoid during pregnancy?
Some medicines are known to increase the chance of birth defects or other problems. But sometimes there’s more risk for the mother and her baby if she stops taking a medicine (such as one that controls seizures) than if she keeps taking it. Talk to your doctor or midwife about any medicines you take if you are thinking about having a baby or if you are pregnant.