Health & Fitness

Folate during pregnancy may not prevent preterm births

Folate is a valuable nutrient, especially for pregnant women. Studies show adequate intake of folate — or folic acid — just before pregnancy and during pregnancy can significantly reduce the risk of spinal cord defects. However, a new study shows one thing folate apparently can't do: lower the risk of preterm birth.

Researchers have long wondered if the amount of folate in the diet would have an impact on preterm birth. One previous study suggested that it might help. Preterm birth is a big problem in the United States, with about 12 percent of babies born too early.

In the new study, scientists examined data from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, which includes 72,989 children. The data include questionnaires from women about their folate intake during pregnancy. The study did not show any difference in dietary folate intake or folate supplementation and preterm birth.

Still, women should get about 400 micrograms of folate per day before pregnancy and about 600 micrograms per day during pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes.

The research was presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in San Francisco.

—Los Angeles Times

Tips to help survive the rest of winter

It's unseasonably warm this week, but the chance for more brutal weather remains.

Here are some tips to get you through the rest of the cold season, whether you're hitting the slopes or digging out your car.

* Watch out for numbness, a cold or burning feeling and hard or waxy-looking skin, which can be signs of frostbite, and can occur even at temperatures of 27 degrees. To treat frostbite, call a doctor right away, and try to thaw frostbitten parts in warm — not hot — water and do not vigorously rub frostbitten parts.

* Beware of hypothermia, which is when a body loses heat faster than it can be produced and vital organs cannot function. Symptoms, which appear gradually, include clumsiness, slurred speech, confusion and drowsiness. If someone has hypothermia, call 911 and layer them with blankets.

* If you're not sweating, you may not remember to keep up on your water intake. But your body uses more water in the winter to keep warm, so stay hydrated. Also, drink warm, rather than hot, drinks because you're likely to drink more of them.

* Dress in layers, including good, wicking socks to keep your feet warm and dry; a hat to prevent loss of heat from your head; and scarves, goggles and earmuffs to protect your face. Choose mittens over gloves, since fingers can actually get frostbitten in gloves when they can't keep each other warm.

* If shoveling snow is on your to-do list, use a lighter shovel, use your knees to lift instead of your back and, most importantly, pace yourself and don't let your breathing get too heavy.

—McClatchy-Tribune News Service