4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

4 Folate and Folic Acid Benefits For All Moms—Whether They’re Pregnant or Not

Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate or vitamin B9, is well known as a vitamin that pregnant moms take to help prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida and anencephaly.

Since the first 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy are when the neural tube is formed and when defects occur, and up to 45 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, taking folic acid before you get pregnant is vital.

The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day. During pregnancy, women should increase the amount to 600 mcg; breastfeeding moms need 500 mcg.

Although most women get enough folate, some women, such as those with the MTHFR gene variant, may not be able to utilize folate properly and may need to take the bioactive form.

Interestingly, research suggests folate and folic acid can actually be beneficial for all moms, whether they’re planning to become pregnant or not. Here’s what we know.

1. Folic Acid May Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is often seen as a man’s disease but nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, accounting for approximately 1 in 4 female deaths each year.

In addition to a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, getting enough folate may actually ward off heart disease.

According to an August 2016 meta-analysis in the Journal of The American Heart Association, folic acid supplementation is associated with a 10 percent lower risk of stroke and a 4 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

2. Folic Acid Acid May Reduce Cancer Risk

Some studies suggest that adequate levels of folate may prevent certain cancers. According to a large 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who had total folate intake of 900 mcg a day or more had a 30 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer than those who only consumed 200 mcg a day.

Since some studies suggest that high levels of folate and folic acid may actually increase cancer risk however, more research is needed to determine whether or not taking higher doses is actually beneficial. 

3. Folic Acid May Prevent Depression and Postpartum Depression

Some studies have shown an association between low folate and depression.

Researchers have also looked at the link between folate and depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression.

According to a November 2017 study in the journal Nutrients, women who took folic acid for more than 6 months during pregnancy had a lower risk of postpartum depression than those who took it for less than 6 months.

Some studies also suggest folic acid, in combination with anti-depressants, may improve symptoms, but it’s unclear whether it’s effective or not.

4. Folic Acid May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s unclear whether folic acid supplementation may prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease but some studies suggest it may have some benefit.

While observational studies have found an association between low levels of folate and poor brain function and a higher risk of both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, folic acid supplements have not been shown to improve cognitive function or prevent these diseases, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For people who have already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s however, folic acid may help, according to a June 2016 study in the journal Mediators of Inflammation.

What Moms Should Know About Folate and Folic Acid

Since folate is a water soluble vitamin, it’s not stored in the body so you need to get it in your diet, ideally through food.

Foods high in folate include dark green leafy vegetables, some types of fruit, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, meat, poultry and grains. Some foods like breads, cereals, pastas, rice and other grains are also fortified with folic acid.

Although most women get enough folate, symptoms of a folate deficiency include fatigue, irritability, weakness, poor concentration, headache, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and pale skin, according to the National Institutes of Health.

It’s important to note that although the folate thats’s naturally found in foods isn’t harmful, high doses of folic acid and fortified foods may be. There are also certain medications that can interact with folic acid supplements so when in doubt, always talk to your doctor.

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Moms

5 Healthy Holiday Gifts for Moms

After you purchase gifts for your kids and everyone else on your list, bake all the Christmas cookies and attend the obligatory office parties and school events, there’s no doubt that holiday stress will get the best of you.

This year, instead of checking off all the boxes and running around until you’re completely exhausted, why not take a few minutes to put yourself and your health first?

Whether your goal is to eat healthy, get in shape or sleep better, these healthy holiday gifts will set you up for success in the New Year.

1. Headspace

We’re all stressed but that doesn’t mean you have to let it overwhelm you.

Studies show meditation is an effective way to reduce stress, improve sleep and boost focus.

In fact, a September 2018 study in The Journal Of Cognitive Enhancement found that a regular meditation practice over a lifetime has the potential to keep the brain sharp and ward off mental decline.

If you’re new to the practice, a guided meditation app like Headspace can help.

Andy Puddicombe, the voice of the app, is easy and soothing to listen to—not awkward like some other guided meditations I’ve tried. With 1-, 3- or 10- minute options, the app also makes it easy to fit meditation into your schedule no matter how busy you are. Multiple subscription plans, free-$399.99. Headspace.com.

2. Love Sweat Fitness

 

If you’re looking to shed a few pounds or just get in shape, Love Sweat Fitness’ quick, daily at-home workouts and meal plans can support you on your journey.

Founded by Katie Dunlop, a NASM-certified personal trainer, the program inspires women to “sweat anywhere” and “live guiltless.” $49.99-$129.99. my.lovesweatfitness.com

3. Prepara iPrep Adjustable Tablet and Phone Stand

Whether you consider yourself a bona fide chef or more of a beginner, the Prepara iPrep Adjustable Tablet and Phone Stand will make it easy to make healthy dinners for your family.

The stand allows you to access all of your favorite recipes on your iPad or smart phone while you cook without having to touch the screen. With a non-slip rubber base, four different viewing angles and a space to store the stylus, it’s one of the best healthy holiday gifts for moms. $29.95. BarnesandNoble.com.

4. HoMedics Deep Sleep II Therapy Machine

Once your babies sleep through the night, you do too, right? Not so much.

If your mind races at night, you have a hard time winding down or have a snoring partner, a good night’s rest can be hard to come by.

That’s where the HoMedics Deep Sleep II Therapy Machine comes in. With 12 different soothing sounds, 4 variations of white noise, water relaxation or nature sounds, and 30-, 60- or 90-minute auto-shutoff features, machine will help you get the sleep you deserve. $79.99. Homedics.com

5. Thistle Farms ReEnergize Set

I was so excited to discover Thistle Farms, a bath, body and home brand whose motto is “love heals.” All of their products are handcrafted by women who are survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction, giving them the opportunity to heal and have bright futures.

Their ReEnergize Set, which includes body wash, bath soak, shave gel and lip balm, are infused with tea tree and eucalyptus mint essential oils and are free of phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and synthetic fragrances. $45. ThistleFarms.org.

 

6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression  For many moms, postpartum depression goes undiagnosed. I was one of them.

6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression

For many moms, postpartum depression goes undiagnosed. I was one of them.

Four years ago, I found myself in the office of a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression.

My second child was already 18-months-old by that point and from what I had read and written about postpartum depression, there was no way I had it.

I thought moms with the condition felt sad, cried a lot and felt detached from their babies. I also thought those symptoms showed up within weeks after giving birth.

My story wasn’t like that at all.

I had a positive birth experience with a midwife and supportive husband by my side.

I felt so great in fact, that I spent only one night in the hospital.

The day after I came home, we even hosted family in our home for Easter and I was happy and energetic. I already felt like I was settling into our new life with a 2-year-old and a newborn.

Everything seemed just fine.

Two days later at my daughter’s well visit, I was asked to fill out a screening for postpartum depression and I was flippant about it. I quickly checked off the answers and thought, I don’t have time for this.

For the next year and half, I cared for my daughters, worked part-time and went to the gym regularly. I cooked our meals and made homemade baby food. I cleaned my home every week like clockwork and did everything else that had to get done.

I was high functioning for sure, not the disconnected mother I had envisioned a mom with postpartum depression to look like.

And besides, so much time had passed.

As I spoke to the therapist however, she explained that despite all that, what I was experiencing was in fact, postpartum depression.

As I did more research, I realized that I had likely had the condition since my first daughter was born and no one, not even me, picked up on it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 10 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Despite how common it is however, it often goes unrecognized and is not always an easy, clear-cut diagnosis. When it is diagnosed, less than half of women get treatment, according to a February 2015 study in the journal CNS Spectrums.

Whether you’re a new mom or know someone who is, it’s important to recognize the signs—no matter how subtle they may be—and know where to turn for help.

1. Anxiety

I was no stranger to anxiety, having experienced it since childhood, but after my daughters were born it ramped up even more.

When my kids were sleeping, I constantly checked to make sure they were breathing, they were still lying on their bellies, and their swaddles hadn’t come undone, potentially suffocating them.

When I was driving, I not only worried that we would get into a car accident, but that another car would hit my car on the side where my kids sat.

It doesn’t make much sense that you can be anxious and depressed at the same time, but anxiety is actually one of the symptoms of postpartum depression. In fact, The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, the screening tool used to diagnose postpartum depression, includes questions about anxiety, panic and overwhelm.

Some moms who have the same type of irrational fears I did, can suffer from postpartum anxiety or postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). These and other perinatal anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and panic disorder are about as common as postpartum depression.

2. Irritability

The weeks and months after I gave birth felt so incredibly stressful. I lacked patience for everyone and everything.

I was constantly frazzled—trying to balance interviews, writing and pumping my breast milk, all in the short amount of time I had our sitter caring for my kids.

Unlike my first daughter who would breastfeed like clockwork and be done, my second liked to nurse what felt like all the time and would cry the minute I put her down.

If you feel on edge, you’re not able to relax, or you’re short and snappy with your husband and other people in your life, take note. True, you’re already exhausted and the lack of sleep can make you feel irritable but if those feelings persist, it could be due to postpartum depression.

3. Changes in appetite

A change in your appetite is perhaps one of the most significant, but subtle signs of postpartum depression.

Despite being a chef, cookbook author and foodie, Chrissy Teigan has said that when she had no interest in cooking or eating she realized it was time to seek help for postpartum depression.

When you have a new baby, it’s rare that you’ll have time to sit down to a meal so you might find yourself skipping meals or overeating when you do have time to eat.

Yet if you have a lack of appetite or find yourself overeating or binging to decompress, cope with tough feelings or to fight fatigue, it might also be due to postpartum depression.

4. Feelings of uncertainty, insecurity and regret

There are so many decisions you have to make when you become a mom.

Whether it’s choosing to breastfeed, going back to work and picking the right pediatrician, it can all feel very overwhelming.

If you get stuck and find it hard to make decisions, no matter how minor or significant they may be, or you doubt, regret or beat yourself up about a decision you made, it could be a sign of postpartum depression.

5. Insomnia

With a newborn at home, sleep is already hard to come by. If you have other children who don’t sleep through the night, it can be even more challenging.

If you find it difficult to fall asleep, or toss and turn throughout the night, talk to your doctor because it could be a sign of postpartum depression.

6. Feeling like a failure

After the birth of my first child, I constantly compared myself to other new moms including family, friends and those I knew in the community.

Of course, photos of happy moms with their cute, “perfect” children on social media didn’t help either.

Everyone else seemed to have it all together and handle new motherhood with ease while I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

I struggled nearly every day with feelings of inadequacy as a mom. I frequently told my husband, I’m not a good mom, I’m not cut out for this and I’m failing.

Motherhood didn’t come easy for me and I knew I wasn’t happy, but I thought it was my fault. I thought I simply didn’t know how to be a mom, but now I know that was the depression duping me.

Although I think it’s safe to say we all feel overwhelmed by motherhood from time to time and we doubt our decisions, when these feelings persist, it’s time to seek help.

How To Find Help

If you have any of these signs, or you simply don’t feel like yourself, it’s important to seek help.

Postpartum depression is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom. It’s a real, diagnosable condition and there are effective treatments available.

Tell someone

Talk to your doctor or midwife about your symptoms, whether you gave birth 2 weeks or 2 years ago.

She can screen you for postpartum depression and refer you to a therapist who can help. If you feel like you can’t take that first step, talk to your partner, a family member or friend who can put the wheels in motion for you.

Find help

Postpartum Support International is an amazing resource for new moms. They offer phone and online support, referrals to local therapists and support groups.

Get support

Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) was a lifesaver for me. They welcomed me with a warm breakfast, someone to watch my kids for 2 hours and a group of real moms who listened, understood and were supportive. Although it can feel hard to be social, try to find a moms’ group that provides a safe, supportive space.

Ask for what you need

As I said, I had no idea I had postpartum depression. I was checking things off my list, going full throttle 24/7, and having an I can do it all mentality but I rarely accepted help or took time for myself.

All moms need help, but if you have postpartum depression, it’s even more important.

Ask your partner to take a feeding, cook dinner or take over some of the household duties. If you can afford to do so, hire a postpartum doula, a baby nurse or an au pair.

If your parents or in-laws have the time and offer to help, take them up on it. They can take your baby for a walk in the stroller, read to your baby, or help prepare dinner.

Say yes to any help you can get.

If you have thoughts of suicide, please don’t suffer in silence. There is help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255)

 

8 Things No One Told Me About Breastfeeding

8 Things No One Told Me About Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other about breastfeeding in general and I certainly didn’t give much thought to whether I’d breastfeed or not.

That all changed one day when I read a fact sheet about the benefits of breastfeeding for both babies and mothers. Within 5 minutes, I turned to my husband and said, “I’m going to breastfeed.”

Shortly thereafter, I read a book about breastfeeding and thought I’d be all set for when my child was born, but little did I know how much more there was to learn and how little I was prepared for it all.

The truth is that although breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t come so naturally to most women. It takes commitment, physical energy, mental fortitude, and flexibility for it to work. I should know—I breastfed two babies, each for a year.

There were other things no one told me about breastfeeding and I had to learn on my own. Here are 8.

1. You need help

After I gave birth to my first child, the lactation consultants in the hospital paid me a few visits. Everything seemed to be going well but I wasn’t quite sure if I was doing it right and it was also painful.

It wasn’t until they encouraged me to set up a private appointment with them a few days later that everything seemed to make sense and became a lot easier. They taught me how to relax, position my baby, and get the latch right.

Two years later when I had my second child, I once again met with a lactation consultant after I was discharged because I was worried my milk supply was low. After I fed my baby, the lactation consultant weighed her, talked to me about my concerns, and assured me everything was fine.

Whether it’s a lactation consultant, La Leche League, or another mom, breastfeeding moms need information, guidance, and support.


2. You might be hungry all the time

Although it’s not a hard and fast rule, moms who are exclusively breastfeeding need an extra 300-500 calories in their diets. Breastfeeding is a lot like a sweat session at the gym: your body is working hard to produce milk and you’re burning a lot of calories.

When I was breastfeeding, I felt like I was hungry all the time and eating non-stop. As a new mom of course, it was hard to find time to sit down to a meal so often times, I would multi-task and eat over my daughter as she breastfed.


3. You can pump too much

When your milk supply is low, lactation consultants tell you to pump but my milk supply wasn’t low and I actually think I pumped too much.

My first child was a good eater (she still is), and I had a really good milk supply and my breasts were constantly engorged especially in the early months of breastfeeding. Everyday, I’d effortlessly pump enough for a bottle so my husband could take a feeding at night. But when she started to sleep through the night, I continued to pump.

Eventually, I had a freezer full of milk for no apparent reason. Although I thought I was pumping to alleviate the engorgement, I think I inadvertently increased my milk supply.


4. It won’t be easy

Make no mistake: breastfeeding takes commitment and it’s a 24/7 job, especially in the beginning.

When my second child came along, breastfeeding became even more inconvenient because I had a toddler to keep up with too. I wanted desperately to follow the Baby Wise strategy which worked swimmingly for my first child, but wasn’t working out that well for my second who would cry the minute I put her in the bassinet and wanted to nurse all the time. With the help of the lactation consultant, I realized that wasn’t going to happen and some babies want to nurse—a lot.

I also started to feel like I could never get out of the house or go anywhere since I didn’t have breast milk reserves and I didn’t want to feed my daughter formula unless it was necessary—like the time I had a cat scan and couldn’t breastfeed.

5. You might be up against other challenges

While I was breastfeeding, I had postpartum depression (something I wasn’t diagnosed with until much later), I was dealing with Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER), and I had a bout with mastitis.

I also made the decision of having my second child’s frenulum clipped because she had a slight tongue-tie which made breastfeeding painful. Although I knew it had to be done if I was going to continue breastfeeding, watching her cry, and the doctor walk in and out of the room in 5 minutes, was tough. When I checked out and was told said procedure was $500, I nearly cried myself.

Of course, there was also work, managing my household and everything else life throws at you, which makes breastfeeding that much more challenging.


6. You won’t need a nursing cover for long

With my first child, I covered up while I breastfed and even went into a separate room when we had guests over or were invited to someone else’s house.

When you’re whipping out your breasts every few hours, however, that practice quickly fades. Soon enough, I breastfed in front of family, friends, and in public.

Come baby #2 and there was nothing to hide. In fact, eight weeks after giving birth, I found myself in the bridal suite for a family wedding pumping in a cocktail dress while my husband guarded the door.


7.  Sex gets interesting

Due to low levels of estrogen, vaginal dryness can make sex uncomfortable. If/when you do have the big ‘O,’ your breasts can leak spray everywhere thanks to oxytocin, the hormone responsible for both milk letdown and orgasm.

I’m thankful to have a husband who could care less and who finds the humor in almost any situation, but feeling like I had lost all control of my body was an understatement.


8. You might have regret or feel grateful

The definition of breastfeeding success or achieving breastfeeding goals looks different for each woman. We’re all unique, have different challenges, and have varying beliefs and views about breastfeeding. There are no hard and fast rules: what works for you may not work for another mom.

For me, I felt grateful to be able to have breastfed both babies for as long as I did. For working moms who have to travel to an office, travel for work, clock hours or don’t have a traditional office like a friend of mine who pumped in her car in NYC garages in between meetings with clients, breastfeeding can be downright impossible.

Despite many challenges, I felt accomplished and proud that I stuck with it and gave my children what I believe is the best start in life.

Do I wish I would have been more prepared, had more support, and known what breastfeeding would really be like? Sure. But when it comes to parenting, you’re never really prepared, you make a ton of mistakes, and you learn as you go along. Ignorance is bliss.

 

Are there things you wish you would have known before you started to breastfeed? Drop your thoughts in the comments.

9 Food Rules For Breastfeeding

9 Food Rules For Breastfeeding

You already know that breastfeeding is a healthy choice for you and your baby, but what you might wonder about are things like what foods you should eat and avoid, how many calories you should be getting, and if you can drink coffee and alcohol.

What may surprise you is that there aren’t any hard and fast food rules for breastfeeding. In fact, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy your diet is, your baby will still get what he needs.

Nevertheless, eating enough calories, the right types of foods and getting key nutrients in your diet will give you the energy to keep up your milk supply, keep up with caring for your baby, and support your overall health and wellness.

Here are 9 food rules for breastfeeding to consider.

Rule #1: Don’t diet

Perhaps one of the most important food rules for breastfeeding is to avoid restricting calories. Although you might be ready to lose the baby weight, dieting could affect your milk supply and deplete your energy levels.

If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you need an extra 450 to 500 calories a day to support your milk supply so make a point to get them in.

Rule #2: Drink plenty of water

A misnomer about breastfeeding is that drinking plenty of water is important for your milk supply, but upping your intake of H2O actually doesn’t increase your milk supply, according to Kelly Bonyata, an international board certified lactation consultant and founder of KellyMom.com

What drinking plenty of water can do however, is help prevent you from feeling even more fatigued than you probably already do.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (previously the Institute of Medicine), says the adequate intake (AI) for water while breastfeeding is 3.1 liters but notes there’s no data to suggest that kidney function and the amount of hydration breastfeeding moms need is any different than moms who are not breastfeeding.

Rather than keeping tabs on how much water you’re drinking, a good rule of thumb is to drink for thirst. Keep a water bottle near you during the day to make sure you’re staying well-hydrated and be mindful of symptoms of dehydration, which include dark urine, constipation, and fatigue.

Don’t like plain water? Add slices of cucumber or strawberry for a hint of flavor. Water from other sources count too: fruits and vegetables, soups, juices, milk, tea and coffee.

Rule #3: Make protein a priority

Breastfeeding places high demands for protein on your body so it’s important to make sure you’re getting plenty at every meal and snack you eat. Eating protein will also stabilize your blood sugar, give you energy, and help you lose the baby weight.

Excellent sources of protein include:

  • Lean meats
  • Liver
  • Poultry
  • Milk
  • Fish
  • Tempeh, tofu and soybeans
  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters

 

Rule #4: Get DHA

DHA, one of the omega-3 fatty acids, in your diet is important for your baby’s brain development. Fish is one of the highest sources of DHA and studies show eating fish can ward off postpartum depression too.

You’ll want to avoid high-mercury fish, which include, shark, marlin, king mackerel, orange roughy, swordfish, and tilefish. Also, limit your consumption of albacore (white) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

Fish that are considered safe because they have lower levels of mercury include salmon, anchovy, catfish, clam, crab, cod, oysters, sardines, scallops, shrimp, and canned light tuna.

Rule #5: Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D

Your baby will draw all of the nutrition he needs from your breast milk, including your calcium stores, so you’ll want to make sure you’re getting enough for your body.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommend lactating women get 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D.

Dairy is an obvious source of calcium, but green leafy vegetables, fish, almonds, sesame seeds and fortified cereals, breads and orange juice, are also good sources of calcium.

Get vitamin D from fortified milk, fatty fish like salmon or the good ‘ol sun. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, a supplement can also help.

Rule #6: Curb caffeine

Sleepless nights and 24/7 feedings will have you craving coffee, but babies are sensitive to caffeine so it’s a good idea to cut back while you’re breastfeeding. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says 200 milligrams (mg) a day of caffeine is likely safe for breastfeeding moms.

If you’re unsure how much caffeine is in your cup of joe, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has a handy caffeine chart. Also, keep tabs on other sources of caffeine like decaf coffee, tea, chocolate, and some snacks.

Rule #7: Eat iron-rich foods

Getting adequate levels of iron in your diet while you’re breastfeeding can prevent iron-deficient anemia and ensure you have plenty of energy to care for your baby.

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron is 9mg but talk to your doctor about how much you need especially if your menstrual periods have returned.

Iron-rich foods include beef, oysters, beans and legumes, spinach, and iron-fortified cereals.

Rule #8: Add lots of herbs and spices to your meals

If you enjoy herbs and spices, adding them to your meals can help your baby to love them later on and may even prevent picky eating.

According to a June 2017 review in the journal Current Nutrition Reports, the foods moms eat during pregnancy and while they’re breastfeeding affect the taste and nutrition of their breast milk, which in turn shapes their babies’ flavor and food preferences.

Add cilantro to green smoothies, turmeric to stews, and cinnamon to your morning oatmeal, for example.

Rule #9: Alcohol is OK, but on occasion

A glass of wine every once in awhile is considered safe while you’re breastfeeding, but it probably shouldn’t be something you do every night and you should limit it to one drink which includes:

·      6 ounces of wine

·      12 ounces of beer

·      1.5 ounces of liquor

Although conventional wisdom has promoted the “pump and dump” strategy, there’s no need. Alcohol leaves your breast milk at it leaves your bloodstream. ACOG recommends moms wait at last 2 hours after having a drink before resuming breastfeeding.