Importance Of Folic Acid Before And During Pregnancy
The reason folic acid is so important both before and during pregnancy is because it can help protect a developing fetus against neural tube defectsa category of serious birth defects that affect the:
In some cases, these may cause death.
Neural tube defects occur within the first few weeks of pregnancypossibly before a person knows they’re pregnant. This is why getting 400 mcg of folic acid daily is recommended for anyone with even a chance of becoming pregnant.
The most common neural tube defects are:
- Spina bifida: The result of when a fetus’ spinal column does not fully close in utero, leaving the spinal cord exposed. Following birth, the nerves that control a baby’s legs and other organs don’t work, often leaving children with spina bifida with lifelong disabilities that require multiple surgeries.
- Anencephaly: When most or all of the brain and skull do not fully develop in utero. Nearly all pregnancies involving anencephaly result in miscarriage, or the baby dying shortly after birth.
Healthy Eating For Pregnant Women
What you eat during pregnancy affects not only your own health and wellbeing and the development of your baby, but there is also substantial evidence that it can have a lasting impact on the health and wellbeing of your child later in life.
Choose a wide variety of healthy foods from the 5 food groups to make sure your and your babyâs nutritional needs are met to support the health and growth of your baby.
You may find that you need to eat more of some foods to ensure key nutrients are obtained, but there is no need to âeat for twoâ.What to include in your pregnancy diet:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables of different types and colours. Ideally 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of vegetables every day.
- Increase your intake of grain and cereal foods to 8Â½ serves a day. Choose mostly wholegrain and high fibre options.
- Select foods high in iron . Iron-rich foods are important for pregnant women. 3Â½ serves of meat or meat alternatives are recommended.
- Make a habit of drinking milk, eating hard cheese and yoghurt, or calcium-enriched alternatives. Reduced-fat varieties are best. 2Â½ serves per day are recommended.
- Drink plenty of water
- Limit your intake of foods and drinks high in saturated fat, added sugar and salt to small amounts.
Can I Get Too Much Folic Acid
Yes, you can get too much folic acid, but only from man-made products such as multivitamins and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals. You can’t get too much from foods that naturally contain folate.
You should not get more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day, unless your doctor prescribes a higher amount. Too much folic acid can hide signs that you lack vitamin B12, which can cause nerve damage.10
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What Is Folic Acid
Folic acid is a man-made form of a B vitamin called folate. Folate plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and helps your baby’s neural tube develop into their brain and spinal cord. The best food sources of folic acid are fortified cereals. Folate is found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.
Benefits Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy
The first weeks of gestation are delicate, which is why its important to take folic acid as early as possible. This is the time where the neural tubes develop those responsible for growing the brain and spine.
Not getting enough folic acid at the beginning of pregnancy can increase the chance of neural tube defects. That includes conditions like spina bifida and anencephaly, both of which can have devastating outcomes .
Spina bifida affects the spinal cord. Babies born with this condition have an increased risk of being permanently disabled. The nerves for leg movement and bladder control do not develop properly, often resulting in the inability to walk or void without assistance. Anencephaly affects the growth of the brain, and babies with this usually dont live long .
Neural tube defects always occur during the first weeks of pregnancy sometimes, even before the mom knows shes expecting. Its been estimated that birth defects affect around one in every 33 babies across the U.S . When expecting mothers take folic acid, it has shown to reduce the chances by as much as 70 percent .
Another benefit of folic acid is that it promotes rapid cell growth in the placenta and the embryo. If you previously had a baby born with a neural tube defect, folic acid can reduce the risk of having another one.
When you take folic acid before and during early pregnancy, this super vitamin can also protect your little one against :
- Premature birth.
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Can Pregnant Women Get Tested For Neural Tube Defects In Their Baby
There are two tests available for the detection of NTDs in the second trimester of pregnancy:
- A blood test that measures the level of a protein called alpha fetoprotein or AFP in the mothers blood. This test is usually performed between 16 and 18 weeks of pregnancy.
- A detailed ultrasound examination of the babys head and spine. This is usually done between 17 and 20 weeks of pregnancy.
These tests are not harmful to the baby and will detect the majority of babies with NTDs.
Reduce The Risk Of Alzheimer
Folic acids turn out to be very good for your brain since it will prevent you from brain diseases associated with Alzheimer. Many researchers have found that homocysteine once again play a vital role on why you can suffer from the diseases associated with your brain like dementia and Alzheimer. As already described above, the folic acid will metabolize the homocysteine in methionine, which this move will prevent the excessive amount of homocysteine.
Many experimental studies already proved the efficacy of the folic acid to protect you from Alzheimer. There is a study that involves 579 men and women aged 60 years old and above. They are allowed to consume 400 mcg of folic acid in their daily life, and the result is just staggering, because the possibility of them having Alzheimer can be reduced up to 50 percent than the people who are not consuming enough folic acid.
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How Do You Read A Product Label To See How Much Folic Acid Is In A Vitamin Supplement
To find out if a vitamin supplement has folic acid in it, check the label . The label is usually on the back of the bottle. Look for the word folate on the label to see how much folic acid youre getting. The label tells you this information:
- Serving size. This tells you how much of the product is in one serving. One multivitamin usually is one serving.
- Servings per container. This tells you how many servings are in a multivitamin bottle. For example, if two pills are one serving and the bottle has 30 multivitamins in it, thats 15 servings.
- Nutrients, like vitamin D, folate and calcium, in each serving
- Daily value of one serving. DV is the amount of a nutrient in a serving. For example, if the DV of folic acid in a multivitamin is 50 percent, that multivitamin gives you 50 percent of the folic acid you need each day.
Vitamin supplement labels now list mcg DFE of folate, which stands for dietary folate equivalent. Its the amount of folate your body absorbs. If a serving has less than 400 mcg DFE of folate, you need more than one serving to get all the folic acid you need each day.
Labels on food products dont always list the amount of folic acid in the product. Newer food labels that list folic acid will list mcg DFE of folate, just like for vitamin supplements.
How Much Folic Acid Do I Need
The recommended dose of folic acid is 400 mcg per day. Most folic acid supplements or prenatal vitamins will have the recommended daily amount, but check the label on the bottle to be sure youre getting the amount you need.
However, you may need a higher dose if youve previously had a baby with a neural defect or you have a history of neural defects in your family. If you think you need more folic acid than the recommended dose, speak to your doctor who can prescribe higher dose tablets.
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Wrapping Up List Of Folate Rich Foods For Pregnancy
Eating folate-rich foods is important for having a healthy pregnancy. Some of the best sources of folate are liver, spinach, lentils, kidney beans, asparagus, beets, Brussel sprouts, and romaine lettuce. You should aim to include some of these foods in your diet every day to ensure that you get enough folate.
While the foods listed above are all great sources of folate dont forget there are more healthy food that contain quite a bit of folate also that would great additions to your pregnancy diet. Things like Peas, legumes other than those mentioned, nuts, citrus fruits, bananas, and even eggs.
List Of Foods High In Folic Acid For Pregnancy
There are a number of folate rich foods that you should include in your pregnancy diet. Folate or folic acid, which is actually the synthetic version of folate, is beneficial for both the health of your unborn baby and for you during pregnancy too. So knowing some great folate rich foods to include in your pregnancy diet is imperative.
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Not Pregnant Why You Still Need Folic Acid
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a type of B9 vitamin that occurs naturally in foods such as spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, beans, peas, citrus fruits and yum beef liver. Folic acid is also found in enriched grains including cereal, bread, flour, rice and pasta.
Why Is Folic Acid Important?
Folic acid is essential for fetal growth of the neural tube the structure that develops into the brain and spinal cord. In pregnancy, the neural tube forms and closes four to six weeks after conception. Neural tube defects , such a spina bifida and anencephaly, occur when the neural tube fails to close. In the United States, 3,000 pregnancies are affected by NTDs each year, and Hispanic women have higher rates of NTDs than other women.
So why do women who arent trying to get pregnant need to worry about folic acid? Because almost half of pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned, and many women dont find out theyre pregnant until after development of the neural tube is complete too late for the proper amount of folic acid to help.
The government implemented mandatory folic acid fortification of enriched grains in 1998 in an attempt decrease the number of babies born with NTDs. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that mandatory fortification has resulted in about 1,300 babies born healthy each year. But many women of reproductive age are still not getting the recommended amount of folic acid each day.
Good Food Sources Of Folic Acid
Foods that can help you get more folic acid in your diet include:
- 400 mcg: Breakfast cereals fortified with 100% of the DV, 3/4 cup
- 215 mcg: Beef liver, cooked, braised, 3 oz
- 179 mcg: Lentils, mature seeds, cooked, boiled, 1/2 cup
- 115 mcg: Spinach, frozen, cooked, boiled, 1/2 cup
- 110 mcg: Egg noodles, enriched, cooked, 1/2 cup
- 100 mcg: Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV, 3/4 cup
- 90 mcg: Great Northern beans, boiled, 1/2 cup
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Healthy Weight Gain During Pregnancy
Steady weight gain during pregnancy is normal and important for the health of you and your baby. However, it is also important not to gain too much weight.
Excess weight gain during pregnancy can increase your risk of certain health issues including gestational diabetes.If you are pregnant, a good approach is to eat to satisfy your appetite, and continue to monitor your weight.Depending on your body mass index at the start of your pregnancy, the following weight gain is recommended during pregnancy:
|BMI at start of pregnancy||Recommended weight gain during pregnancy|
If you are overweight, pregnancy is not the time to start dieting or trying to lose weight. Weight gain within these ranges is important to support the growth and development of your baby.
To maintain an appropriate weight gain during pregnancy, it is important to:
- Choose healthy foods from the 5 food groups.
- Limit discretionary foods and drinks high in saturated fat, added sugars and added salt .
- Remain active during your pregnancy.
Health Benefits Of Taking Folic Acid In Non
Folic acid, best known for its ability to help prevent birth defects, is a vitamin that most women know they need to get enough of during pregnancy. However, this vitamin is an important nutrient for women at all stages of life. The National Institutes of Health recommends about 400 micrograms of dietary folate per day for most adults to help maintain good health.
Read More:What Is the Function of Folic Acid?
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What Are Neural Tube Defects
Neural tube defects are birth defects that involve incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord. The most common neural tube defects are:
- spina bifida: when the spinal cord and spinal column don’t completely close
- anencephaly: a severe underdevelopment of the brain
- encephalocele: when brain tissue protrudes out to the skin through an opening in the skull
All of these defects happen during the first 28 days of pregnancy usually before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
That’s why it’s so important for all women of childbearing age to get enough folic acid not just those who are trying to become pregnant. Half of all pregnancies are not planned, so any woman who could become pregnant should make sure she gets enough folic acid.
It’s not clear why folic acid has such a profound effect on the prevention of neural tube defects. But experts do know that it’s vital to the development of DNA. As a result, folic acid plays a large role in cell growth and development, as well as tissue formation.
Ive Been Trying To Get Pregnant But Havent Been Taking Folic Acid Supplements Should I Stop Trying To Conceive
Ideally, you should take folic acid supplements for two to three months before you conceive and until you are 12 weeks pregnant.
But try not to worry if you havent started taking the supplements yet and start taking it now. You can talk to your GP or midwife if you have any concerns.
Think you’re ready for pregnancy? Take a look at our online pregnancy planning tool.
1. Sue Macdonald, Gail Johnson, Mayes Midwifery. , p 312.
2. NHS Choices Why do I need folic acid in pregnancy? Page last reviewed: 16/03/2016 Next review due: 16/03/2018
3. NHS Choices Spina bifida Page last reviewed: 04/05/2017 Next review due: 04/05/2020 www.nhs.uk/conditions/spina-bifida
4. NHS Choices Vitamins and minerals Page last reviewed: 03/03/2017 Next review due: 03/03/2020
Last reviewed:Next review:
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Folic Acid In Other Conditions
Folic acid is also used alongside methotrexate treatment in people with severe Crohns disease, psoriasis, and arthritis. When it is used in these medical conditions, folic acid is taken on a different day of the week to methotrexate. It is taken to reduce the side effects which can be caused by methotrexate.
Good Food Hygiene Reduces The Risk Of Infection
Good food hygiene is the best way to reduce the risk of salmonella and listeria infections. Suggestions include:
- Always wash your hands before and after preparing food.
- Keep your kitchen surfaces clean.
- Do not let uncooked food contaminate cooked food.
- Wash fruit, vegetables and salad before eating.
- Cook food thoroughly.
- Keep pets away from kitchen surfaces.
- Wear rubber gloves when handling cat litter trays or gardening.
- Store food at correct temperatures.
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What Happens If You Have Too Much
Getting too much folic acid from food alone isnt likely to happen as it already appears as its natural form, namely folate. However, when taking multivitamins and other supplements, you can quickly overdose.
Although theres a limited research regarding folic acid overdose, we do know that it can conceal vitamin B12 deficiencies . If this remains undiagnosed, it could lead to nerve damage.
If not corrected, it will allow vitamin B12 deficiency to worsen, ultimately leading to confusion, dementia, and eventually nerve damage. However, this deficiency is highly unlikely to occur in healthy individuals who consume an unrestricted diet those at risk include the elderly and strict vegetarians. Vitamin B12 is present in eggs and dairy, so following a vegan diet is a higher risk for this deficiency .
Folic acid can also directly lead to side effects if taken over a long period . These symptoms include:
- Numbness and tingling in hands or feet.
- Muscle weakness.
- Reduced sense of taste.
If youre experiencing only a minor deficiency, the symptoms might not be noticeable at all, if you even have any. However, you still arent getting an adequate amount for your babys earliest development. So if you fear you arent consuming enough, contact your healthcare provider.
Do I Need To Take Folic Acid Every Day Even If I’m Not Planning To Get Pregnant
Yes. All women who can get pregnant need to take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day, even if you’re not planning to get pregnant.2 There are several reasons why:
- Your birth control may not work or you may not use birth control correctly every time you have sex. In a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 40% of women with unplanned pregnancies were using birth control.8
- Birth defects of the brain and spine can happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy, often before you know you are pregnant. By the time you find out you are pregnant, it might be too late to prevent the birth defects.
- You need to take folic acid every day because it is a water soluble B-vitamin. Water soluble means that it does not stay in the body for a long time. Your body metabolizes folic acid quickly, so your body needs folic acid each day to work properly.
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