7 Reasons Folic Acid is so Important During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body goes through numerous changes. Physical and hormonal changes are probably the most apparent as your body slowly adjusts to having a growing baby inside of you! It is now more important than ever to be eating the right food and getting the right amount of nutrients that you and your baby need.
However, there is one vitamin that plays a crucial role in the development of your child’s brain and spinal cord, and that is folic acid.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate which is a type of B vitamin. Once inside the body, folic acid is converted into folate. Folate can be found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits, while man-made folic acid is more commonly found in fortified cereals and other types of foods. Folic acid is important for everyone to take, but it is especially essential for anyone looking to get pregnant or who is already pregnant.
Reasons You Should Take Folic Acid During Pregnancy
Folic acid plays an integral role in the development of cells and DNA in the body because these cells become hair, nails, skin, and more. For a developing fetus, however, folic acid helps to lower the chances of your baby developing the following birth defects:
It can help to prevent spina bifida and anencephaly
Spina bifida is a neural tube defect that happens when an unborn baby’s spinal column does not fully close during development in the womb, leaving it exposed. Because of this, the nerves that control the legs and other organs will not work properly. This can also lead to other conditions such as partial or full paralysis, bladder and bowel control problems, learning difficulties, and more.
Another neural tube defect associated with a lack of folic acid during pregnancy is anencephaly. Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a baby is born without parts of the brain, skull, and scalp.
This will result in the baby being born without the front part of the brain (forebrain) and the cerebrum which is responsible for thinking and coordinating.
However, the good news is that you can help to prevent these neural tube defects from occurring just by taking 400 mcg of folic acid every day, ideally before and during pregnancy.
It can help to prevent cleft lip and palate
Cleft lip and cleft palate are facial and oral malformations that occur during the early stages of pregnancy. These malformations happen when there isn’t enough tissue in the mouth or lip area and the tissue in those areas do not join together properly.
While folic acid is best known for helping to prevent the aforementioned birth defects, studies have also shown that folic acid can also reduce the risk of the following when taken daily:
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
- Poor growth in the womb
- Pregnancy complications
For mothers, folic acid has also been found to play a role in reducing the following risks:
- Heart disease
- Some types of cancer
- Alzheimer’s disease
When should you start taking it?
All women who intend to get pregnant or are already pregnant should take folic acid. If you were unable to take folic acid before getting pregnant, make sure you take them as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. To get the most out of folic acid, however, doctors recommend taking it three months before you intend to get pregnant and continue taking it up until your 12th week of pregnancy at least. This is because your baby’s spine is developing in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
How much should you take?
The US CDC encourages pregnant women to take at least 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid per day. If there’s a higher chance of having a pregnancy affected by neural tube defects, that amount may be increased to 500 mcg of folic acid until the 12th week of pregnancy.
You may have a higher chance if any of the following applies to you:
- You or the baby’s father have a neural tube defect
- You or the baby’s father have a family history of neural tube defects
- You have had a baby born with a neural tube defect
- You have diabetes
- You’re taking medication for epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, or inflammatory bowel disease
- You have kidney disease and are on dialysis
- You have sickle cell disease
- You have liver disease
- You drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day
If you are concerned that there may be a risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect, it’s best to inform your doctor so that they can prescribe a higher dose of folic acid for you. The doctor may also require additional screening tests during pregnancy to rule out the possibility of neural tube defects.
What are other sources of folic acid?
You can also supplement your intake with dietary sources of folic acid including leafy, green vegetables like spinach, kale, and arugula. Other natural sources include legumes, asparagus, eggs, beets, broccoli, papaya, and citrus fruits. For a wider selection, consider adding the following foods to your diet:
- Breakfast cereals
- Protein bars
- White pasta
- White rice
Be prepared with Maternity 360
Birth defects and congenital abnormalities are every parent’s fear. While the risk for developing these conditions can be lowered with folic acid intake, there is still no guarantee that your baby will be fully protected against them. To ensure that you’re financially protected should such illnesses occur, consider Income’s Maternity 360 single premium plan.
Maternity 360 offers coverage for both mother and child, including 23 congenital diseases (such as cleft lip and cleft palate, and spina bifida) and 10 pregnancy complications.
You can’t put a price on the health and safety of you and your child. Chat with an online advisor today!
This article is meant purely for informational purposes and should not be relied upon as financial advice. The precise terms, conditions and exclusions of any Income products mentioned are specified in their respective policy contracts. For customised advice to suit your specific needs, consult an Income insurance advisor.
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