How Folic Acid Benefits Pregnant Women

When you are pregnant, your foremost priority is to ensure that the little one in your tummy is protected so you can have a safe delivery of a healthy baby. But, for your baby to be healthy, you also need to be healthy yourself. Among the best things that pregnant moms can do keep their baby free from serious birth defects is by adding enough folic acid to their daily diet, specifically prior to conception and during the early stages of pregnancy.

Folic acid in kale
Folic acid is also found in kale

The importance of folic acid for expectant mothers is well documented. The guidelines of the government recommend that women who have plans to get pregnant is to take a folic acid supplement of 400 mcg daily and continue taking it through the pregnancy’s initial 12 weeks. 

Folate plays a big role in maternal tissue growth in pregnant women and helps guard against any major birth defect. 

What is Folic Acid?

Also known as folate or B9, folic acid is a type of B vitamin that can help and encourage the body to produce healthier new cells. This folic acid is folate’s manmade form present vitamins and fortified foods while folate is naturally found in certain foods.

Video: What is Folic Acid?

Importance of Folic Acid for Women

While it is true that everyone needs folic acid, this is especially essential for women who already reached the age to conceive. It has been proven that folic acid helps lower the risks of the birth defects that can affect the spine and brain that often develop during pregnancy. 

Every woman who can bear a child needs folic acid due to the following reasons:

  • It is a must to get enough amounts of folic acid prior to conception since most types of birth defects of the spine and brain tend to develop during the pregnancy’s first 28 days. Most of the time, these defects can form even before a woman discovers the pregnancy. 
  • Based on statistics, it has been revealed that more than half of pregnancies in the world are unplanned. This is why it is equally critical for women who don’t have plans to conceive to have enough amounts of folic acid just like those women who want to get pregnant. 
  • The moment a woman learns about the pregnancy, whether it is planned or not, it might already be too late to avoid these grave birth defects if she doesn’t get the suggested amount of folic acid per day. 

What is the Daily Recommended Amount of Folic Acid Intake?

It is important that you consult your doctor regarding the daily recommended amount of folic acid depending on your unique familial goals and medical history. For many women who are already of the age to bear a child, even those who don’t have plans to get pregnant, it is highly recommended to take folic acid on a daily basis, especially if:

  • You have plans to get pregnant or you are already pregnant. The experts suggest that women should take 400mcg of folic acid per day. This should start at least one month prior to conceiving and during every stage of pregnancy. 
  • You already had a baby with birth defect and you are planning to get pregnant again. It has been reported that women with a child who has a neural tube defect could lessen the risks of bearing a child suffering from a neural tube defect by up to 70% if they have sufficient intake of folic acid daily. 
  • You are breastfeeding. There are doctors who suggest that breastfeeding mothers should continue their intake of prenatal vitamins to have the assurance that they get adequate amounts of folic acid. 
  • You have a family or personal history of spina bifida and you have plans to get pregnant. Your doctor can suggest as much as 4,000 mcg of folic acid. 

What are the Best Sources of Folic Acid?

Although folic acid is naturally found in certain foods, it might be a bit difficult to maintain and follow a diet that will meet all of your daily requirements for folic acid.

Folic acid in spinach
Folic acid is also found in spinach

Aside from eating foods rich in folic acid, a healthcare professional may also suggest that you take a daily multivitamin or supplement that includes folic acid as one of its ingredients. 

Which Foods are Rich in Folic Acid? 

Always read the labels of drink and food products to check if they contain folic acid. There are instances when folate is used instead of folic acid. Labels will also indicate the amount of folic acid that you can get in every serving. Here are a few important tips to remember when looking for food sources rich in folic acid:

  • Folate is naturally present in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale and even in beans and citrus fruits or juices. 
  • Folic acid can also be found in foods labeled as enriched, such as breakfast foods, flours, breads, pastas, white rice, and cornmeal. Some breakfast foods already contain the overall amount of folic acid that a woman needs per day. 
  • It is not possible to eat too much of folic acid from the natural food sources. However, unless the doctor tells you to, avoid consuming over 1,000 mcg per day from enriched foods or supplements. 

Which Vitamins Contain Folic Acid?

Don’t forget to check the label of your vitamin to make sure that it contains a minimum of 400mcg folic acid then ask your doctor regarding the right suggested amount for your case. Below are a few important tips when choosing folic acid vitamins:

  • Many stores provide a daily multivitamin or single folic acid supplement that contains the daily recommended amount. 
  • If you are having a hard time swallowing large pills, there are multivitamins containing folic acid that comes in chewable fruit or chocolate flavors, liquids, and smaller round or large oval pills. 

It doesn’t matter if you are already pregnant or you have plans to be in the future. Getting enough folic acid per day from fertility prodcuts is one the most important things you can do to safeguard you and your family’s health.

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