Folic acid is a B vitamin otherwise known as vitamin B9, also called as Folate. It is a water soluble vitamin, that helps to produce new cells and maintain the same. Also, they prevent DNA changes that may lead to cancer. It is considered to be Pregnancy Superhero!
It is recommended that all women should take prenatal vitamin along with Folic acid (400 mcg recommended) before and during pregnancy every day due to its following advantages.
Folic acid’s importance during pregnancy:
- During pregnancy, your body works overtime to ‘build’ the baby. And it requires plenty of nutrients to build a hale and healthy baby. Folic acid plays a superhero in the first few weeks of pregnancy, as it helps in the proper closing of the neural tube, which is the precursor to the baby’s brain and spinal cord.
- So, Folic acid helps to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) which are serious birth defects of the spinal cord (such as spina bifida-incomplete development of spinal cord) and the brain (such as anencephaly- incomplete development of major parts of brain) in baby.
- It helps in creation, repair and functioning of your genetic map i.e. DNA, which is the basic building block of the cells.
- Folate aids in the formation of Red Blood Corpuscles (RBC) in your baby.
- It helps in the formation of the fetal heart and circulatory system and also in lowering the chances of your baby having birth defects.
- It reduces pregnancy complications like preeclampsia, a condition in which the pregnant woman has high blood pressure and swelling of feet, legs, and hands.
- It is said that folic acid could prevents cleft lip and palate in babies, prevents miscarriages if taken before a month of planning for a pregnancy too.
- Also your body needs folic acid to produce normal RbCs to prevent it from Anemia.
When to start taking Folic acid?
- Trying to conceive:
It is recommended that all women who are trying to conceive should consume folic acid along with prenatal vitamin everyday. If you are planning to have a baby you should start with folic acid three months prior.
|Trying to conceive? You may be interested in reading- “How to get Pregnant fast“|
- During Pregnancy:
Folic acid is very important in first three months of pregnancy (first Trimester) as all body organs (brain, spinal cord) of a baby are formed in this stage. So, if not taken then there are chances of neural tube defect in baby. After 3 months also i.e. in 4-9 months of pregnancy, folic acid has utmost importance. Thus, folic acid should be taken everyday by To-be Mom during her pregnancy. Also, while breastfeeding it should be continued.
Amount of Folic Acid to be taken:
The following table depicts the amount of folic acid to be taken by a women before, during and after pregnancy.
|Stage||Amount/Quantity to be taken|
|When you are trying to conceive||400 micro grams (mcg)|
|In first to three months of Pregnancy (first Trimester)||400 micro grams (mcg)|
|In four to nine months of Pregnancy (Second & Third Trimester)||600 micro grams (mcg)|
|While Breastfeeding||500 micro grams (mcg)|
Note: Experts strongly recommend that all women of childbearing age should take a dose of 400 mcg of folic acid every day. If you take multivitamin every day, it is advised that you should check multivitamin supplement’s label (for getting ensured if you are taking the recommended amount). If you are not taking recommended amount, then you can change the brand or take folic acid separately. But never consume more than one multivitamin in a day.
Cases where you may need extra folic acid:
- If you are overweight, then your doctor may prescribe you to consume more than 400 mcg of folic acid everyday. It is prescribed more as there are chances to have a baby with neural tube defect (NTD). In such cases, it is advisable that you should consult a doctor prior (at least a month) when you are trying to conceive.
- If you are carrying twins, then doctor may prescribe you to take as much as 1000 mcg of folic acid everyday.
- In case of diabetic women, there are chances of baby having NTD, so in such case consult your doctor prior conceiving as he will mentor/guide you accordingly.
- If in your previous pregnancy the baby had NTD, then doctor may advise you to take 4000 mcg of folic acid everyday.
Note: Ensure that the doctor must be aware of your past medical record.
Sources of Folic acid:
It occurs naturally in the form of folates in:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
- Dried beans, peas, lentils, oranges, whole-wheat products, liver, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, egg yolks and spinach.
Thus, as it is recommended that all women of childbearing age should take a multivitamin with folic acid or a folic acid supplement every day.