New research has found that a surprising number of women fail to take proper care of their health before becoming pregnant.
Researchers from the University of Southampton who followed a group of 12,445 women 20 to 34 years old found that those who became pregnant were only slightly more likely to have followed the recommended lifestyle and nutritional guidelines than those who did not, according to Reuters Health.
Lifestyle factors included smoking, alcohol drinking, exercise and supplement use. In particular, only about 3 percent of the women were taking the recommended amount of folic acid, an important nutrient which reduces the risk of having a child with a neurological birth defect.
Meanwhile, the importance of following recommendations on dietary supplements during pregnancy has been underscored by recent research. According to the January issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, by taking calcium supplements women can reduce the level of lead in their blood. During pregnancy, lead is released along with calcium from the bones when there is no other source.
Fetal exposure to lead is associated with low birth weight, lower intelligence scores, and neurological defects such as impaired motor and visual skills.