Folic Acid during Pregnancy
Folic acid during pregnancy is an essential nutrient for normal development of your baby. Folic acid can often also be referred to as folate.
Undoubtedly you have already heard about the importance of folic acid before pregnancy as well as when you are pregnant.
It is a vitamin that will be recommended to you. Folic acid is a man-made form of a B vitamin called folate.
How Do I Get Enough Folate?
Eating a healthy diet that contains the foods listed below will help provide you with your folic acid requirements. A prenatal multi-vitamin may also be recommended by your doctor.
Why is Folic Acid Important during Pregnancy?
If you have a deficiency in folic acid you may be putting your baby at greater risk of developing spina bifida and anencephaly.
Spina bifida can occur if the neural tube fails to develop properly, hence the importance of maintain folate levels to assist with preventing neural tube defects.
Anencephaly is the incomplete development of major parts of the brain.
Does Folic Acid Have Any Other Benefits?
Folic acid may also reduce your risk of:
- Some types of cancers
- Pregnancy complications
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
What is the Neural Tube?
As your baby grows inside you, the neural tube becomes the spinal cord and brain. The neural tube will develop within the first few weeks of pregnancy.
It is during this time period where most women are yet to know that they are pregnant.
The closure of the tube is completed by the sixth week of pregnancy. This is why taking a folic acid supplement pre-pregnancy is recommended.
This way, you can ensure that you are taking it when you do fall pregnant and during these first few weeks.
How Much Folate during Pregnancy is Recommended?
Consult with your doctor for what you should be taking based on your individual needs and circumstances.
Current recommendations for folate are 400 micrograms a day for at least one month before you start trying.
You can often take a folate supplement on its own or as part of a multivitamin for women who are pregnant, or trying to conceive. Your doctor can recommend a reputable brand for you.
When Should I Start Taking Folic Acid?
The time to start is when trying to conceive, your doctor may have already advised you to start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid.
Because birth defects occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. It is for this reason that its important to already have folic acid in your system.
This way you will have enough folate in your system when your baby’s brain and spinal cord are developing.
CDC Recommendations for Folic Acid
The CDC recommends that you start taking folic acid every day for at least a month before you become pregnant, and every day while you are pregnant.
The CDC also recommends that all women of childbearing age take folic acid every day.
What if I Have Already Had a Baby with a Neural Tube Defect?
According to the CDC, if you’ve already had a baby with a neural tube defect, getting enough folic acid may reduce your risk of having another child with a neural tube defect by as much as 70%.
How Do I Select the Best Prenatal Vitamin?
Good question. You see not all prenatal vitamins are the same.
To ensure you are getting the required prenatal nutrients, vitamins and minerals you need, ask your doctor to have a look at what you are taking.
Ideally, before you buy, they will be able to recommend a brand to you that they prefer.
Can I Get Folic Acid through My Diet?
The best food sources of folic acid are fortified cereals.
Did you know that folate is found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits? What about other foods?
Foods High in Folate
6. Legumes (chickpeas)
7. Dried beans and lentils
When cooking any of the above folate-rich foods the best method for preserving folate levels is to steam your vegetables.
Boiling can alter the folate levels so you tend to lose the benefit of consuming folate-rich foods.
In some countries, you will find that the bread you eat may also be fortified with folate. Australia is one such country.