Folic Acid: What’s its Purpose Before and During Pregnancy?

Folic acid is known as the guardian of the health of unborn babies. Highly recommended to any woman who’s trying to get pregnant or already is, this B-group vitamin (B9) is essential for proper growth and healthy development of the fetus in the first trimester of pregnancy. Folic acid is mostly known for its miraculous benefit of preventing neural tube defects, or birth defects of the spinal cord of your baby and their tiny brain.

With the fast-paced lives we live and the ever-increasing popularity, availability and affordability of fast foods, although once rare, neural tube effects are now more common than ever. Neural tube defects occur when something interferes with the early growth and development of your baby, but that won’t be the case with you if your body has enough folic acid to serve as the last line of defense. About 3,000 pregnancies per year in the USA are affected by NTDs. Luckily, studies have shown time and time again that folic acid is a highly efficient guardian from NTDs and that it should be an essential part of pregnant women’s diet.

folic acid

This vitamin occurs naturally and can be found in a plenty of foods: dark green leafy vegetables (broccoli, spinach, asparagus, etc.), whole grains, oranges, pulses, avocado, citrus fruits, lentils, cauliflower, strawberries, tomatoes, bananas, mushrooms and many others. If you’re planning a pregnancy, you should start consuming foods rich in folate as early as one month before conception. Since birth defects occur in the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, you should keep consuming recommended daily doses of folic acid (400 mcg) through the first trimester in order to keep your baby’s brain and spinal cord safe. Folic acid is believed to reduce the risk of NTDs by huge 70%.

If you visit a doctor before conception, you’ll probably be suggested to start taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid and eat more foods high in folic acid. However, since half of the pregnancies are unplanned, it is recommended for all women who are with someone and are in childbearing age to get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. This way, if they get pregnant accidentally, their babies’ health will still be safer. Once you’re pregnant, you should increase your dose of folate to 600 mcg per day.

Besides helping in neural tube effects prevention, this super vitamin is also aiding your body to produce normal red blood cells. It is very important to have your red blood cells in check during pregnancy, because otherwise, you may end up with a type of anemia. However, it is not as severe as the more common type of anemia caused by a lack of iron. Also, folic acid is important for repair, production and proper functioning of DNA, as well as for the rapid cell growth of the placenta and the developing fetus.

More info about pregnancy: @StagePregnancy