1 Getting Ready for Bebe Every time my mother peels an apple, a tomato or a peach, she buries the peels in her garden. Well-nourished soil, she says, yields healthy plants. And she must be right because there's always disputes among our neighbors and family to see who gets the leftover calabacitas or zucchini my mom doesn't need. She's certainly got the best garden in the neighborhood. The equivalent of this secret for a woman who wants to become pregnant is folate or folic acid, a balanced diet and prenatal visits. If you're thinking about having a baby, one of the best things you can do is prepare your body for pregnancy. And if you're already pregnant, it's never too late to start giving your baby the best possible care. The information in this chapter will help you achieve a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby. Taking care of yourself before conceiving is very important because some of the most critical moments of a baby's development take place during the first weeks of gestation, when you probably don't even know you're pregnant. In fact, this advice applies to all women of childbearing age, since half the pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. What you eat and do is as important as what you don't eat and don't do. The beginning of the pregnancy is when the baby is most vulnerable to what you send to him or her through your blood. At this time the structure that will become the nervous system, spinal column and brain is starting to shape. Home remedies and some drugs could affect this development. So can certain illnesses you may contract. Being healthy during pregnancy is crucial for the baby and for you too. From an embryo that starts half as small as the dot on top of this i you will grow a whole little human being inside yourself. The work the body of a pregnant woman does while resting has been compared to climbing a mountain. Starting as healthy as possible will help you make this work much easier. It's a very good idea to see your obstetrician/gynecologist before you get pregnant. And make an appointment for your partner to see his general physician. That way both of you will know that everything's the way it should be. Many Latinos don't know they have diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which can affect the pregnancy. And don't forget to get your spirit ready. Fill your heart with todo el amor, all the love you can. Your baby will benefit from it as much as from the folate and vitamins you will give him or her through your blood. La verdad, truth is, I think the secret to the success of my mom's garden is the love and care she pours on it every day. Nutrition Eating healthy is always important, but if you are planning to have a baby or are already pregnant, a balanced diet should be one of your priorities. This is not only because you will feel much better, but because once pregnant you will be the one deciding your baby's menu every day. Prenatal vitamins are a only a complement to your diet. There is nothing that can substitute for healthy nutrition. Every day you should eat fresh vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins (meats, poultry, fish or eggs) and dairy products. In Chapter 3 you will find the types of foods and portions recommended during pregnancy. If you are not pregnant yet you can start this diet, subtracting around 200 calories. Folate or Folic Acid Folic acid is a member of the B complex group. Our body uses folic acid to make red blood cells and proteins such as DNA. These are required for a baby to develop normally. A lack of folic acid can cause defects in what is called the fetal neural tube, which is the structure the baby's nervous system grows from. One of the most common defects produced by a lack of folic acid is spina bifida, where the spinal column is not closed at its end. This doesn't mean that if you haven't taken folic acid before getting pregnant,Alcaniz, Lourdes is the author of 'Waiting for Bebe A Pregnancy Guide for Latinas', published 2003 under ISBN 9780345452115 and ISBN 0345452119.