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nutrition | pre-and-post-pregnancy

Vitamins and Pregnancy Health – S2 E2

Did you know the health of your baby starts long before conception? Vitamins play a major role in reducing the risks of birth defects. Even if you don’t plan to become pregnant, multivitamins with folic acid have numerous health benefits that can help you, and potentially a future baby, live a healthy life.

Susie Leo MPH, RDN from the Power Me A2Z program at the Arizona Department of Health Services helps us understand the vitamins expecting parents should take to ensure a more healthy pregnancy. She explains folic acid and tells us how it can decrease the risk of birth defects. Whether or not you plan to become pregnant, find out how you can receive a free 3 month supply of multivitamins from the Powerpack program.

Podcast Resources:
Vitamins | PowerMe A2Z
Take this quiz to test your health IQ | PowerMe A2Z
Health Resource Order Form | PowerMe A2Z
Susie Leo, MPH, RDN
Strong Families AZ
Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez
Podcast Credits:

host Host: Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez is the Program Director for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.

host Guest: Susie Leo is an MPH, RDN from the Power Me A2Z program at the Arizona Department of Health Services.


Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: [00:00:00] Welcome to The Parenting Brief. I’m your host, Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez, an Arizona working mom and Program Director for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Being a parent is a 24/7 job, but this job doesn’t come with a manual or a guidebook.

That’s why we’re here to provide you with guidance, tips, and advice from parenting experts.

Thank you for tuning into another episode of The Parenting Brief. Today’s episode is all about preconception health, specifically how folic acid and vitamins can help bolster the health of both you and your baby. Proper nutrients and vitamins are so important to set yourself up for long-term health. And this is especially critical for people who are [00:01:00] pregnant or may become pregnant since the health of the parent impacts the health of a growing baby.

In fact, certain vitamins like folic acid help prevent birth defects and complications. It has other benefits too, as it can reduce PMS symptoms and lower stress. But how exactly does folic acid work and what vitamins should you be on the lookout for? We have answers to those questions and more up next.

Joining me today is Susie Leo from Power Me A2Z, which offers free resources and tips to improve the health of people who can get pregnant. Thank you for joining me today, Susie.

Susie Leo: Thank you for having me.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: A lot of people who can get pregnant, don’t even think about taking a multivitamin until they actually get pregnant.

And then the prenatal vitamin becomes all of the buzz, which ones are best, which ones won’t make them feel nauseous, what’s the best time of day to take them, when should you start taking them in your pregnancy, but we should really be talking about it and [00:02:00] taking a multivitamin before we ever hit the pregnancy stage.

So, let’s first talk about the why, why is it important for people who can get pregnant to be taking a multivitamin before pregnancy occurs.

Susie Leo: So, it is recommended for people who can get pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, even if they don’t ever plan to have a baby. And so, we know that half of all pregnancies are unplanned.

And so therefore it’s a good idea for anyone who can get pregnant to take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid in case of pregnancy does happen. And by the time most people find out they’re pregnant, which is at least like five weeks into a pregnancy, a neural tube defect could have happened already.

And so, it’s too late to prevent that in that pregnancy. So, we just recommend that anyone who could get pregnant to take 400 micrograms of folic acid.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So, what if someone doesn’t ever have the intention [00:03:00] of getting pregnant or wanting children?

Susie Leo: As we know, half of pregnancies are unplanned so it’s still a good idea to take the folic acid every day, just in case a pregnancy were to happen.

But folic acid also has other benefits, like making hair shine, nails grow, skin glow, I mean, who doesn’t want those benefits, right? So, it also helps to, you know, stabilize our mood. It helps our body make red blood cells to absorb iron. It helps protect against certain cancers. It helps to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, which is good for our hearts.

So even if they don’t want the neural tube defect, you know, preventing qualities about folic acid, it’s still a good idea to take the vitamin for other reasons.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: You talked specifically about the role of folic acid and the role that that plays in the importance of really that health even before somebody gets pregnant. Are there other key vitamins that they should be looking for when trying to select one?

Susie Leo: So, the [00:04:00] vitamin offered through Power Me A2Z which is the one that we provide for free. And this recommendation might be different if somebody has a health condition that they need to avoid a certain vitamin or need more of a certain vitamin, you know, that’s something they need to consult with their healthcare provider on.

But the ones that we provide through Power Me A2Z have vitamin A, vitamin C, D, E, thiamin niacin, riboflavin, B6, B12, calcium, and of course, folic acid. Our vitamin is similar to a typical women’s one a day that you would find at a grocery store or a drug store, but you want to make sure that you’re getting one with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, and then those other nutrients are important for the health of people who can get pregnant as well.

Iron is one that you would want to probably talk with your healthcare provider before getting a multivitamin with iron, but those other nutrients are important.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: And when talking about folic acid, you had talked about the fact that even by the time somebody may find out that [00:05:00] they’re pregnant, there are some defects that may have already happened that may not have been able to be prevented if you start taking that multivitamin after you find out that you’re pregnant. So what exactly is folic acid and what does it do to prevent birth defects?

Susie Leo: Folic acid is also called vitamin B9 and it’s the manmade version of the form of folate. So, folate is in food, folic acid is the man-made version and that’s what’s added to foods and that’s in supplements, hence the term folic acid in our vitamins. So folic acid is important in the health of people who can get pregnant because it’s important for pregnancy and fetal development, because those are times of rapid growth, right? For the fetus developing and the parent forming that baby in their, in their tummies.

So, what it does is it helps make red blood cells, it helps our body absorb iron. It also helps in forming [00:06:00] DNA and RNA. And it’s just important during those early stages of pregnancy to prevent the neural tube defects.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: And what is a neural tube defect?

Susie Leo: So, if folic acid isn’t in a person’s body before they get pregnant, and in those first few weeks of pregnancy the brain and the spine tissues might not form properly. And it can lead to something called spinal bifida or anencephaly, those are the two most common neural tube defects and there are lifelong health implications of a baby born with those neural tube defects, a lifetime of medical care, increased costs, shortened lifespan, most likely.

So that’s why it’s so important that we recommend folic acid to anybody who can get private.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So in talking about the fact that it is in foods, as well as other vitamins, are we able to meet our recommended daily requirements of folic acid with a balanced diet, or should a multivitamin be considered, regardless of that diet?[00:07:00]

Susie Leo: It is possible to meet the needs for folic acid in your diet or folate, I should say, which is the food form, but you would need to eat a ridiculous amount of folate containing foods. And so that’s why we recommend taking a multivitamin with folic acid. It’s just kind of a safe bet. We absorb folic acid, like I said, the man-made version is way better than the food version.

And so, our bodies are shown to absorb about 50% of folate from foods versus 85% of folic acid in fortified foods or in supplements. So that’s why we say yes, we want people to eat a healthy diet and get folate containing foods, but also, it’s safe, it’s a safe bet to take a multivitamin with folic acids and just make sure that you’re getting enough.

And it would be very hard to overdo it, very hard between eating fully containing foods and taking a supplement, it’d be impossible to overdo it. [00:08:00]

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So, we’ve talked about the fact that the vitamins that are provided through Power Me A2Z is a multivitamin. Is that different than prenatal vitamin?

Susie Leo: Good question. A prenatal vitamin is for during a pregnancy. So, our vitamins through Power Me A2Z are for people who can get pregnant to take before a pregnancy or between pregnancies. And so, they have that folic acid in their bodies when they do get pregnant and then they would switch to a prenatal vitamin and usually healthcare providers after the pregnancy recommend to just finish up the prenatal vitamins and then switch back to like a regular multivitamin, like the Power Me A2Z multivitamins.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: So where can people go to get the vitamins that you’re talking about in regards to the Power Me A2Z?

So and that’s Power Me the letter, A, the number 2, Z .org is our website and people who can get pregnant in Arizona can go to the website, [00:09:00] sign up to receive free vitamins that can be sent right to their home.

The website is in English and in Spanish, there is no cost for any of our materials and they just have to answer five quick quiz questions, there’s no wrong answers. And then they fill out their information, the vitamins are sent within a few weeks.

Thank you so much for all of your helpful advice and information today, Susie.

Susie Leo: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me on.

Jessica Stewart-Gonzalez: Head to our episode show notes, to find out how you can receive a free, three months’ supply of multivitamins with folic acid. While you’re there, be sure to give The Parenting Brief a follow on your favorite podcast app. Plus you can also share this episode with your friends and be expecting parents in your life. Until next time,

this is Jessica. You’ve got this. [00:10:00]

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