Folic acid + pregnancy. Remember this 'combo', because it's vital to guarantee a healthy development of your baby.
Every single doctor will prescribe you such a 'magic potion' as soon as you get pregnant, together with other prenatal vitamins, though the truth is that you should start taking it a few weeks before you call bingo.
Folic acid, also known as folate, is a vitamin B (B9) that helps your body produce red blood cells and plays an essential role when it comes to developing your baby's neural tube into his brain and spinal cord. The neural tube is the embryo's part from which both the brain and the spinal cord are formed during the first trimester of your pregnancy, so by taking folic acid, you can prevent serious birth defects such as spina bifida and anancephaly.
Folic acid, pregnancy: Do all women need it?
No matter how healthy and balanced your diet is, it's hard to get the necessary folic acid from meals. Just think that by boiling foods, these lose vitamins at some degree including folic acid. As a result, all pregnant women should take such dietary supplements to make sure that they are getting enough of it.
How much folic acid do I need?
Studies have shown that the right dosage to reduce health issues is 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day. That said, this quantity varies a little bit depending on the pregnancy stage that you are in, so consider:
- 400 mcg: while you are trying to get pregnant.
- 400 mcg: during the first trimester of your pregnancy
- 600 mcg: from months four to nine.
- 500 mcg: while you are breastfeeding.
If your baby had a neural tube defect in a previous pregnancy, you should talk to the doctor to find out how much folic acid is appropriate in a case like this. Women with diabetes, epilepsy and obesity are also at a higher risk for such complications, so they should check what's the best dosage for them.
There are pregnant women who take multivitamins every day, instead of folic acid supplements. If you do so, you need to make sure that the former contain the necessary dosage of folic acid, which is more important than any other vitamin supplements during pregnancy.
Folic acid, pregnancy: What are its benefits?
The combo folic acid + pregnancy has countless benefits, and that's why it's a must when carrying a baby. As mentioned earlier, it helps the embryo's neural tube close correctly during the early weeks of your pregnancy, preventing it from developing two scary birth anomalies:
- Spina bifida: an incomplete development of the spinal cord or the vertebrae that leads to different disabilities.
- Anencephaly: an incomplete development of the brain. Babies who are born with this condition tend to have short lives.
You have to know that taking folid acid may help your baby lower the risks of getting such birth defects by 50%.
Besides these, folic acid has been linked to protecting you and your baby-to-be against:
- Preterm birth
- Low birth weight
- Cleft lip and palate
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer's disease
- Certain types of cancer
How long do I have to take it?
Expectant mums need folic acid in pregnancy, right, but for how long? Well, throughout the whole process! Getting additional folate is essential to produce the extra red blood cells that you will need during these 9 months and support a normal cell division process, which is necessary for good foetal and placental development.
Folic acid supplements work really well, but it would be even better if you could combine a diet rich in folate with them. For example, have a bowl of fortified cereals for breakfast, and make sure the rest of your meals include foods that are rich in it, such as beef liver, lentils, spinach and egg noodles, among others.
As you can see, the folic acid - pregnancy combination is absolutely necessary. Not only is it good for your growing embryo and foetus, but also very beneficial for you. If you are one of those people who are bad at taking pills, because you forget about them, try to be more disciplined this time. If you need to, keep a little calendar next to your night table, so that you can keep track of how long you've been taking it. Make a routine out of it and everything will be fine!