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How Much Folic Acid During Pregnancy?

“I want my baby to be healthy” is the answer of each mother when asked if she wants to have a girl or a boy. But most of the times, women put their future babies in danger even from their first months of life without even noticing.

How Much Folic Acid During Pregnancy

A lot of women don`t really understand the importance of the regular administration of folic acid before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy. So, the baby is often exposed to the risk of developing severe conditions even from before he`s even conceived. Of course, every mother wants what is best for her baby or/and, with a bit of documentation, precaution and determination, many of the serious health issues can be effectively and easily prevented with a daily intake of at least 70% of the recommended dose of folic acid.

Table of Contents

What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a form of vitamin B that helps in the development and regeneration of regular cells, being especially important during the first weeks of fetal development. It helps to the proper formation of the brain and spinal cord, without any risk of losing the pregnancy or for the baby to have a neural tube defect.

Folic Acid & Neural Tube Defects

Neural tube defects can manifest in the form of several diseases present at birth, among which are anencephaly and spina bifida. This last one, which basically means open marrow, can lead to severe cases of leg paralysis and control problems of the intestines and bladder.

Anencephaly is a fatal disease caused by the underdevelopment of the brain and skull. Primary risk indicators for neural tube defects are whether or not you previously had a previous pregnancy which resulted in neural tube defects or if someone in your family had neural tube defects.

Other medical conditions which might occur due to the lack or insufficiency of folic acid in the diet of the future pregnant woman might be:

  • Cleft lip and cleft palate are congenital diseases which occur quite early in pregnancy.
  • Preeclampsia (high blood pressure).
  • Premature birth (studies show that pregnant women taking folic acid half a year before getting pregnant have reduced their chances of giving birth to premature babies by 50%).
  • Low birth weight.
  • Miscarriage.

People at risk of developing pregnancy with neural tube defects are in the category of those with:

  • Previous pregnancies of neural tube defects.
  • Neural tube defects encountered in the family history.

Doctors and experts are still not certain as to why folic acid has such an essential role in preventing this type of defects, but it`s certain that this vitamin is very important in the development of human DNA, hence the overwhelming contribution in the formation and growth of cells and tissues.

Since 50% of pregnancies are unplanned and it`s not uncommon for a woman not to know she`s pregnant during the first 2 months of pregnancy, she`s particularly important for any woman of childbearing age (16 – 45 years.) Supplements of folic acid should be taken on a daily basis.

How Much Folic Acid during Pregnancy?

So, a pregnant woman needs folic acid to produce the red blood cells necessary by the growing blood flow required for the baby to be developed. It also supports the fast growth of the placenta and fetus, contributing to the continuous formation of DNA (genetic material) as the cell number increases. Without folic acid, cell division might be defective, resulting in slower growth of the placenta and fetus.

The recommended dose of folic acid:

  • For most women, the recommended dose for healthy day-to-day life and pre-conception is of 0.4 mg of folic acid.
  • Once you got pregnant, the dose should be increased to 0.8 mg, although may even recommend you 1 mg, and most prenatal vitamins already contain this amount.
  • If you suspect any risk of neural tube defects, it`s possible for the recommended dose of folic acid to be of 4 mg, 10 times the normal dose.
  • Breastfeeding women need 0.5 mg, and some experts recommend continuing to take prenatal vitamins that the fresh mother took during pregnancy.

The amount of folic acid also needs to be adjusted by the doctor in the case of pregnant women who suffer of insulin-requiring diabetes or celiac disease, as well as in the case of overweight women. Therefore, the decision regarding the dosage of folic acid should be taken by a specialist in obstetrics-gynecology.

Women with diabetes, obesity or epilepsy are exposed to the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects, that`s why the doctor should be consulted to determine to optimal dose of folic acid. – More info!

Folic acid supplements need to be taken before remaining pregnant (even from the moment you start to think that it`s time to have a child) and until the week 12 of pregnancy. With the onset of the second trimester of pregnancy, from the week 13 you may stop the supplement of folic acid (continuing to take prenatal vitamins), although you don`t expose yourself (or the baby) to any risk if you continue to take folic acid until birth or even during breastfeeding.

To avoid forgetting to take folic acid, try to associate its administration from a moment of the day: for example, you take the pill you eat or brush your teeth. Set the alarm of your phone or computer to let you know every day that you should take your vitamins. In time, it will become a routine and you won`t find it complicated.

Benefits of Folic Acid

Adults, men and women together, have much to gain from the consumption of folic acid. Among the benefits of folic acid, we remind:

  • Correct cell division and function.
  • Correct hemoglobin formation.
  • Reduced risk of heart attacks.
  • Protection against various types of cancer, like cervical or colon cancer.
  • Possible risk of Alzheimer`s disease.

Sources of Folic Acid

The particular form known as folic acid is man-made, and can be found in the folic acid supplements, along with other multivitamin daily concentrates and foods that contain food supplements.

The natural version of folic acid, folate, is present in certain foods, but it`s not just as efficiently and easily absorbed by the body. Therefore, it`s highly recommended to take the synthetic version on a daily basis. In the United States, there is the regulation that all gain-based products that contain food supplements, like bakery specialties and bread, cereals, rice and pasta, should be supplemented with folic acid. Some even contain 100% of the recommended daily dose, so you should read the content information on the items you purchase. The green supplements usually contain folate, the vitamin`s natural version.

Among the excellent sources of folate are grain-based food supplements (already mentioned, cereals for breakfast, peas, lentils, beans and related vegetables, beef liver and chicken liver.

Some very good sources of folate include oats, salads, asparagus, lime bean and spinach.

Others sources are broccoli, canned corn, bread and pasta, orange juice and avocado fruits.

Folic Acid: Natural or Synthetic?

A lot of doctors say that, no matter if you have already follow a healthy and well balanced diet, folic acid should be taken through supplements. This is mainly because is hard to eat every day 1 kg of spinach, for example, to ensure the daily dosage of folate. Moreover, they say that the human organism isn`t able to store folic acid from one day to another, so it takes a daily diet that`s extremely rich in this substance, which is hard to accomplish.

On the other hand, there are voices which claim that folic acid increases the risk of various types of cancer, while folate, which is the natural form of folic acid, protects against cancer and that it`s best for pregnant women to opt for a regimen of healthy foods.

Image courtesy of MomJunction.com

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