Folic Acid, and Its Importance For Pregnancy

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Update Date 12/05/2020
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For pregnant women or women who intend to conceive, folic acid can be the superhero they never knew they needed. Primarily, this is because women need up to 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily as it can significantly aid in lowering the risk of birth defects.

What Does It do For Your Baby?

Folic acid, which is also known as folate, is a man-made form of vitamin B9. It is fundamental for pregnancy, both for pregnant women and women intending to conceive. In particular, it is essential in preventing  neural tube defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. The neural tube refers to the part of the embryo in which your baby’s spine and brain is developed.

These birth defects include spina bifida (incomplete development of the spinal cord or the vertebrae) and anencephaly (incomplete development of major parts of the brain). Spina bifida can result in permanent disability, while anencephaly can result in fatality. They occur at an early stage of development, way before a woman knows she is pregnant. Some of the best sources of folic acid include bread, rice, cereals, dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.

What Does It do For Pregnant Women, or Women Intending to Conceive?

For pregnancy, vitamin B9 enables your body produce to red blood cells, and reduce your risk of complications or diseases. This includes heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and Alzheimer’s. Additionally, it also promotes the production, repair and functioning of our DNA map, which becomes a basic platform of cells. Supplementing your body with adequate folic acid may also provide your baby with protection against problems at birth. This includes protection from cleft lip and palate, premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage.

How Much of Folic Acid do You Need?

The general rule for pregnancy would be to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. In some cases, especially those in which a pregnant woman has low levels of folate in her body, experts have advised to increase intake to a minimum of 600 mcg daily. If you are supplementing your body with a multivitamin that also contains folic acid, it is also important to check the bottle label to determine the folic acid content for each tablet.

However, do ensure that you do not consume more than one multivitamin per day. As an alternative,  you can opt to change your multivitamin brand or take folic acid independently. If you are taking prenatal vitamins prescribed by a doctor, they probably include 800 to 1000 mcg of folic acid already, but check the label anyway. You should never ingest more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid per day unless prescribed by a doctor. This, in particular, is beneficial to vegans, as vegans are most likely to suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency that can be hard to identify if they take too much folic acid.

Who Needs More Than the Standard Intake?

Overweight or obese women may receive a prescription more than 400 mcg of it per day. In stark contrast, if your previous baby was born with a neural tube defect, your doctor may prescribe up to 4,000 mcg per day. On the other hand, if you are carrying twins in your current pregnancy, you may receive a prescription of as much as 1,000 mcg of it per day. Therefore, it is extremely important that your doctor is completely aware of your full medical history.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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