It is widely known that folic acid during pregnancy is important. Mentioned in this article are folic acid and its pregnancy-related benefits, daily dose, and natural sources.
Research shows that mothers with inadequate supplies of folic acid have given birth to children who have neutral tube defects. During the early 1980s, researchers started to successfully use folic acid supplements to reduce the risk of nervous system-related problems in newborns. This shows that this vitamin and pregnancy are closely related.
- Folate or folic acid helps in preventing serious birth defects of the spinal cord and the brain and neutral tube defects. The neutral tube defect occurs at a very early stage of the development, even before many women know that they are pregnant. Hence, it is very important to start taking the recommended daily dosage of this vitamin before one month of conception to prevent any risk of neutral tube defect to the baby.
- Certain research on folic acid show that it can lower the risk of other common birth defects like cleft palate, cleft lip, and certain heart defects of the baby.
- Apart from this, everybody needs folate for maintaining good health. Mothers by taking regular folic acid can have normal red blood cells and prevent anemia.
- Folate is necessary for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA. Thus, a good supply of this vitamin is important for rapid cell growth of the placenta and the developing baby.
The dietary allowances of folate according to the age group is given below.
- During pregnancy for age 14 to 18 – 600 mcg per day
- During lactation for age 14 to 18 – 500 mcg per day
- During pregnancy for age 19+ – 600 mcg per day
- During lactation for age 19+ – 500 mcg per day
Source: Institute of Medicine
Apart from the mentioned natural folate rich foods, many fortified foods are available, which can be used to meet the daily requirement.
Some of the best sources are romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, calf’s liver, collard green, broccoli, beets, parsley, lentils, string beans, black beans, and garbanzo beans.
It is safe and most adults don’t experience any side effects while consuming the recommended folic acid dosage. However, high doses can cause insomnia, abdominal cramps, nausea, confusion, behavioral changes, skin reactions, gas, irritability, and other side effects. Hence, it is important that you stick to the recommended dosage.
Women who are obese are more likely to have a baby with a neutral tube defect, however the reason for this is still unclear. If you are highly overweight, consult your doctor before you conceive. The doctor will advise you to take more than the daily recommended amount of folic acid.
If you were previously pregnant with a baby having a neutral tube defect, then tell your doctor about this before conceiving. This risk can be significantly reduced by taking a large dose of folate, before one month of conception, continued for three months of pregnancy. If you are diabetic or on anti-seizure medications, then the risk of a pregnancy affected by neutral tube defect is more. Hence, consult your doctor about the dosage before you conceive.
Disclaimer: This HerHaleness article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.