Nothing special about folic acid. It’s one of the components of the vitamin B complex that you have been taking daily to stay healthy.
Folic acid is contained in various kinds of vegetables in our diet.
People might have been taking this vitamin for granted but you should know, during pregnancy, it is one of the most important micronutrients that you have to take.
It’s to ensure normal growth and proper organ development in your developing foetus.
Various studies have shown that consumption of folic acid before getting pregnant can prevent neural tube defect. It can cause serious consequences such as spina bifida, encephalocele and anencephaly.
If those terms are foreign to you, it’s basically defects that can influence your foetal survivability rate.
According to a study which has been done by Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, in Malaysia, the incidence of neural tube defects is 0.42 per 1000 live births.
It’s the highest among indigenous people of Sarawak and lowest among Chinese.
Health Benefits of Taking Folic Acid
28 days after conception, neural tube will close and develop into two of the most important organs that we can’t live without, the brain and the spinal cord.
Without a normal neural tube closure, one of those organs or both of them cannot develop properly making it impossible to survive.
Babies who are born with neural tube defects would require multiple surgeries while suffering from paralysis and long term disability.
Not only supplementation of folic acid before pregnancy can reduce the incidence of neural tube defects, it can prevent other sorts of abnormalities too.
A research which has been published in 2015 has shown a significant drop in congenital heart defects among babies in which their mothers had been given folic acid supplementation prior to pregnancy.
Supplying mothers with folic acid can also prevent the occurrence of cleft lip and cleft palate. Both of these conditions are due to failure of parts of the mouth and lip to merge together.
Obviously, folic acid can aid in normal growth and development of your child. So why wait?
How much do you need? When To Start?
To have a healthy child, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily prior to conceiving.
Why? I did mention that the neural tube needs to close in order to form a normal brain and spinal cord during the first month of pregnancy, right?
Well, the kicker is, if you are planning on taking folic acid only after you know you’re pregnant, you will be missing that critical period.
This is because most women only knew that they were pregnant 6 weeks after their conception.
The standard recommendation would be for all women (who seek to conceive) to be on 400 mcg folic acid supplementation daily.
This is not a problem since most of the prenatal vitamins usually contain 600 mcg of folic acid.
However, if you have a history of delivering a baby with a neural tube defect, the dosage may differ.
There is no guarantee that you will get sufficient folic acid from your diet alone thus supplement can be a valuable thing for women before and during pregnancy.
Take home message
Pregnancy starts even before you were trying to conceive. That period can be considered critical since most of your habits need evaluation before you should try to conceive.
If you were smoking, you need to stop. Drinking alcohol can do damage and popping daily recommended doses of folic acid can do wonders. Be sure to get a prescription from your doctor and don’t ever assume you wouldn’t need to be assessed first.
Your folic acid’s requirement may differ depending on your clinical situation.
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