Folic acid is a complex B vitamin, very similar to vitamin B-12 and it’s great for pregnancy. Folic acid is essential for women who are pregnant and women who are trying to get pregnant; it is a key ingredient in the making of the nucleic acid that forms part of all genetic material. They are crucial for creating more red blood cells, preventing hearing loss, and preserving the brain health of infants.
Importance of Taking Folic Acid
Prevent child birth defects; prevent the fetus from developing major congenital deformities of the brain or spine, including neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Getting enough folic acid may protect your baby from neural tube defects by at least 50%. If you’ve already had a baby with a neural tube defect, getting enough folic acid may reduce your risk of having another child with a neural tube defect by as much as 70%.
Aids in the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA
Promotes rapid cell division and growth
Enhances brain health and age-related hearing loss
How Much Folic Acid Should I Take?
Pregnant women, as well as women planning to get pregnant, should take folic acid supplements for a full year before conception in order to reduce the risk of child detects. It is recommended that you take folic acid every day for at least a month before conception.
- The recommended dose for all women of childbearing age is 400 mcg of folate each day.
- If you’re trying to conceive: 400 mcg
- For the first three months of pregnancy: 400 mcg
- For months four to nine of pregnancy: 600 mcg
- While breastfeeding: 500 mcg.
If you take a multivitamin every day, check to see if it has the recommended amount.
Other childbirth defects that folic acid may also protect your baby against include the following:
- Cleft lip and palate
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Poor growth in the womb
For the mother, folic acid can reduce your risk of:
- Pregnancy complications
- Heart disease
- Some types of cancers
- Alzheimer’s disease
Natural Food Sources of Folic Acid
Other than taking folic acid supplements, foods that can help you get more folic acid in your diet include:
- Asparagus and egg yolk are two great sources of folic acid.
- Dark green vegetables are good sources of folic acid. Be careful not to overcook them, as the folic acid content can drop considerably when exposed to heat.
- Baker’s yeast
- Brussels sprouts
- Liver, although women should not consume this during pregnancy
- Many fruits, especially papaya, oranges and kiwi
- Sunflower seeds
- Whole-wheat bread, as it is usually fortified
It is always better to get nutrients from natural food sources as well as nutritional supplements.