Folic acid is one of the very important nutrients in pregnancy. It is helpful in the prevention of birth defects of the brain and spinal cord of the baby. Due to this reason, doctors prescribe this valuable prenatal vitamin for pregnant women. This article tells you more about the importance of folic acid in pregnancy.
What Is Folic Acid?
A folic acid is a synthetic form of B vitamin “folate”. It is critical in the secretion of red blood cells in the body. This acid assists in the development of the neural tube of the baby into two major organs of the body, i.e., spinal cord, and brain. As both these organs are developed in the first trimester of pregnancy, it is important to begin consuming it before the onset of pregnancy. The best sources of folic acid are a fortified form of cereals, citrus fruits, and dark green vegetables.
What Makes Folic Acid Important In Pregnancy?
Around three thousand babies every year are born with birth defects in the US. This happens due to an insufficient amount of folic acid in the body within twenty days from the date of conception. It is believed that by this time the neural tube of the baby develops into the brain and spinal cord.
- Folic acid helps the body to form new cells and produce DNA. It is required for the sound development of the organs of the fetus in the womb. Starting to consume it before pregnancy can assist in the prevention of acute neural tube defects that includes spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele. Anencephaly is a type of condition where the brain fails to develop properly. This leads to the death of babies. When the baby suffers from spina bifida or encephalocele, it may have to undergo numerous surgeries, long-term disability, and paralysis.
- A study performed on women who consumed folic acid for a year before getting pregnant also observed a decline in the possibilities of delivering premature birth by fifty percent or more.
- Supplementation of folic acid also reduces the chances of congenital heart defects when the blood vessels or heart fails to grow properly before birth. This can impact the inner walls, veins, the heart valves, the arteries of the heart.
- External supplementation of folic acid in the early days of pregnancy may even prevent cleft palate and cleft lip. Such birth defects happen when the lips and mouth don’t merge properly in the initial six to ten weeks of pregnancy.
What Is The Right Time To Consume Folic Acid?
It has been seen that birth defects in the baby happen within the first month of pregnancy. This is the time when the development of two vital organs like the spinal cord and the brain takes place in the baby. To ensure your baby gets adequate nutrition, it is important to consume folic acid right from the period when you are trying to conceive.
Doctors generally advise a prenatal vitamin enriched with folic acid to maintain required levels in the body. It is prescribed to be taken daily for a minimum of one month before you getting pregnant. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), all women who are in their gestation age should begin taking folic acid daily as per the admissible limits.
The ideal dose of folate advised for all women of reproductive age and trying to conceive is 400 mcg each day. In women who have had a previous birth with a neural tube defect, should increase their daily intake of folic acid to 4000 mcg.
In the initial three months of pregnancy, a woman should consume 400 mcg folic acid.
Between four to nine months of pregnancy, you should consume 600 mcg folic acid.
At the lactating stage, it is required that you consume 500 mcg folic acid.
Those who are consuming a multivitamin should check whether it has folate in it. This consideration is necessary to prevent over dosage of folic acid in the body. To get a precise dosage, you need to consult with your doctor.
Women who start to take folic acid after discovering that they are pregnant is not soon. They may need high doses of this vitamin in the upcoming months of pregnancy. Other conditions when your doctor may prescribe you a high dosage of folic acid when:
- You have kidney disease
- You are on dialysis
- You have sickle cell ailment
- You have liver ailment
- You drink over one alcoholic beverage every day
- You consume medications for the treatment of psoriasis, epilepsy, lupus, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disorder, or asthma,
Folic acid is an essential vitamin that should be consumed both before and during pregnancy. As over consumption of this supplement can prove to be toxic for the baby, you should talk to the doctor about the right dosage of this prenatal vitamin. It is best to consume it in the form of foods that are rich in folic acid.