The Importance of Folic Acid during Pregnancy
Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle
Folic acid is a very important vitamin for your body; it is a B vitamin and it helps your body make healthy new cells.
Folic acid is a man-made form of folate. Folate is found naturally in some foods but did you know most women do not get all the folic acid they need through food alone, so taking a supplement is important?
Who needs folic acid?
Really everyone does but folic acid is most important for women who are pregnant. When a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can prevent major birth defects such as Spina Bifida and Anencephaly.
- Spina Bifida is a condition that occurs when an unborn baby’s spinal column does not close to protect the spinal cord. As a result, the nerves that control leg movements and other functions do not work.
- Anencephaly is when most or all of the brain does not develop. Babies with this problem die before or shortly after birth.
Other studies have shown that folic acid aids in keeping your blood healthy and not getting enough of it can cause anemia. Additionally, experts think that folic acid may help with heart health and preventing cell changes that could lead to cancer but more research is needed to be conclusive.
So how much folic acid should you be taking?
- You are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. Pregnant women need 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid in the very early stages of pregnancy often before they know that they are pregnant. A pregnant woman should keep taking folic acid throughout pregnancy. Women should discuss their folic acid needs with their doctors. Some doctors prescribe prenatal vitamins that contain higher amounts of folic acid.
- You are breastfeeding. Breastfeeding women need 500 mcg. Some doctors suggest that breastfeeding women keep taking their prenatal vitamins to be sure they are getting plenty of folic acid while they are breastfeeding and should they become pregnant again.
- You had a baby with a birth defect of the brain or spine and want to get pregnant again. Your doctor may give you a prescription for 4,000 mcg of folic acid. That is 10 times the normal dose. Taking this high dose of folic acid can lower the risk of having another baby with these birth defects.
- You have a family member with spina bifida. Your doctor may give you a prescription for 4,000 mcg folic acid.
- You have spina bifida and want to get pregnant.
How can you be sure you are getting enough folic acid daily?
- Women can get enough folic acid by taking a vitamin every day.
- If you don’t like swallowing pills, try a chewable or liquid product that has folic acid.
SML folic acid Tips:
- Most U.S. multivitamins have at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Be sure to check the label on the bottle. You can also take a pill that only contains folic acid.
- When choosing a brand of vitamins, look for “USP” or “NSF” on the label. These “seals of approval” mean that the pills have been made properly and contain the amounts of vitamins stated on the label.
- Also, make sure the pills have not expired. If the bottle does not have an expiration date, do not buy it.
- It’s important to know if you already are taking a daily prenatal vitamin, you probably are getting all the folic acid you need. Check the label to be sure.