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Folic Acid During Pregnancy and Recommended Dose
Every expectant mom wants her baby to be born healthy, whether it is a boy or a girl. Most women, however, put their baby in danger since the first month, without even realizing it.
Are you aware of the importance of taking folic acid before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy? And how, without folic acid, the baby is at risk of developing serious diseases even before they are conceived? Of course every mother wants what’s the best for her baby or and with little care and planning, many of the serious health problems for the baby can be prevented easily through a daily intake of the recommended dosage folic acid.
What is Folic Acid?
Folate is a type of vitamin B (B9) that helps shape the development and normal cell regeneration, especially during the first weeks of a baby’s development in the womb. It helps proper formation of brain and spinal cord of the baby. Lack of folate can lead to a higher risk of miscarriage or 1 in 1,000 risk for the baby to have a neural tube defect.
Neural tube defects are manifested as severe conditions that appear during childbirth, including spina bifida and anancefalia. All these conditions develop in the first 28 days of pregnancy, usually before a woman knows she’s pregnant.
In Spina bifida, baby’s spinal cord gets exposed because the vertebrae that surrounds it do not close as they should, resulting in serious health problems such as paralysis of the legs and sphincter control problems.
Anancefalia is a fatal condition caused by underdevelopment of the brain and skull.
Other disorders that can occur due to folic acid deficiency in the diet of pregnant woman, such as:
- Cheilopalatoschizis (cleft lip and cleft palate) – a congenital disease characterized by a median fissure between the upper lip, palate and nasal cavity
- Pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure)
- Premature birth – Studies have shown that pregnant women who started taking folic acid 6 months before becoming pregnant have reduced the chances of premature birth by 50%.
- Low birth weight
People at risk of developing neural tube defects tasks are
- Who had previous pregnancies with neural tube defects
- Who have family relatives affected by neural tube defects
Doctors and scientists are not yet sure as why folic acid plays a crucial role in preventing neural tube defects, but they know for sure that this vitamin is crucial in the development of human DNA, hence contributes a lot in the formation and growth of human cells and tissues.
Benefits of Folic Acid Consumption
A pregnant woman needs folic acid during pregnancy to produce more red blood cells in her bloodstream, which are necessary for baby’s development. Without folic acid, cell division could be impaired, resulting in slow growth of the fetus or placenta.
Given that 50% of pregnancies are unplanned, and it’s not unusual for a woman to not know she was pregnant in the first two months of pregnancy, it is particularly important for any woman of childbearing age (16-45 years) take folic acid supplements daily.
Benefits of taking folic acid for babies as well as for adults, include:
- Division and proper functioning of cells
- Formation of hemoglobin
- Reduced risk of heart attacks
- Protection against certain cancers, such as colon and the cervical
- Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease
Recommended Dose of Folic Acid
For most women, the recommended dose for normal health and preconception is 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid daily.
Once you become pregnant, you should increase the dose to 800 mcg (0.8 mg). Although your doctor may recommend 1000 mcg, most prenatal vitamins already contain this amount.
If you belong to the high risk group for the occurrence of neural tube defects mentioned above, daily dose of folic acid should be 4000 mcg, which is about 10 times the normal dosage.
Breastfeeding women need 500 mcg (0.5 mg) of folic acid on a daily basis. For the same reason, some doctors recommend continuing to use prenatal vitamins that the young mother took during pregnancy. Women with diabetes, epilepsy or obesity are at a risk of having a baby with neural tube defects, and should consult a doctor for an optimal dose of folic acid.
It is important to know that folic acid is a water soluble vitamin, so the body will automatically remove any excess quantities of the vitamin, thus reducing the risk of an overdose.
Folic acid supplements should be taken before getting pregnant (even when you think it’s time to have a baby) until 12th week of pregnancy. With the onset of the second trimester of the 13th week, you may reduce the intake of folic acid supplement (continue to take prenatal vitamins).
Sources of Folic Acid
Natural form of folic acid, folates, is present in certain foods, Some excellent natural sources of folate foods include cereal-based food supplements, such as breakfast cereals, lentils, chicken liver and meat, Other sources of folate include oats, asparagus, spinach, lettuce and beans. Some good sources include broccoli, canned corn, brussels sprouts, orange juice and avocados.
In developed countries such as the United States, there are regulations that all food products such as cereals, bread, pasta and rice, to indicate the quantity of folic acid supplements. Some of these foods even contain 100% of the recommended daily dose, so it is good to read about the content of food products.
You must however not that the natural form of folic acid is not easily or effectively absorbed by the body. Therefore, it is recommended to take daily synthetic version of folic acid in the form of folic acid pills.
If you are a woman of child bearing age, you should take recommended dose of folic acid regularly, as many pregnancies are unplanned. Consumption of folic acid has few or no side effects and there is no risk of overdose too. Thus, taking folates regularly is a simple and safe way to reap a variety of health benefits.