Folic acid is definitely a pregnancy superhero. Once you decide to start a family, the very first thing the doctors recommend is to start with a supplement of folic acid.
Folic acid is a man made form of B vitamin called folate. It helps prevent neural tube defects, severe birth defects of the spinal cord (such as spina bifida)and the brain (anencephaly). Neural tube defects occur at a very early stage of development, before many women even know that they are pregnant, which is why it is important to start taking folic acid before you start trying to conceive.
Doctors recommend taking this vitamin at least one month before conceiving to avoid any of these birth defects. The baby’s neural tube is formed and closed in the first four to six weeks of pregnancy. By the time most women know that they are pregnant, the time for the developing fetus to benefit from extra folate has passed.
Doctors and scientists are still not completely sure why folic acid has such a profound effect on the prevention of the neural tube defects, but they do know it’s crucial in the development of DNA, cell growth and development and tissue formation.
Apart for the neural tube defects, folic acid also protects your baby against cleft lip and palate, premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage, poor growth in the wound.
It has also been suggested to reduce the risk of heart disease , stroke, some types of cancers, Alzheimer’s disease.
With the rise in urbanization and ready to eat processed foods, most women do not get folate from their diet. It’s difficult to measure how much folate you get from your diet as this vitamin is water soluble and is affected by the way food is cooked and stored.
Folic Acid cannot be synthesized by the body and hence must be obtained either from diet Or supplementation. Dietary folate is a naturally occurring nutrient found in green leafy vegetables, legumes like chickpeas, lentils, soya beans, Lima beans, red kidney bean,tapioca, egg yolk, liver, dates and citrus fruits. Folic acid is a synthetic artificial supplement that is present in artificially enriched foods and pharmaceutical vitamins.
Here’s how much of folic acid is recommended each day in terms of pregnancy
- While you are trying to conceive – 400 mcg
- For the first three months of pregnancy- 400 mcg
- From fourth to ninth month of pregnancy- 600 mcg
- While breastfeeding- 500 mcg