WOMEN'S HEALTH

Why is it Important to Consume Folic Acid During Pregnancy?

There are many benefits of taking folic acid while pregnant

Folic acid prevents neural tube defects in the growing fetus

Taking folate during pregnancy reduces homocysteine levels

B
Bajaj Finserv Health
November 15th, 2021
8 mins read

Like various other nutrients, folic acid is the vitamin B found in supplements and foods. When it occurs in foods, it is called folate. If found in supplements, it is known as folic acid. Folate plays an important role in the body, especially before and during pregnancy. Folic acid is key for normal growth and development. The main function of folic acid is to synthesize new cells and produce DNA. The role of folic acid in pregnancy is also vital as it handles the proper development of organs in a fetus.

Getting enough folic acid during pregnancy can prevent neural and spinal birth defects. According to the CDC, the folic acid requirement in pregnancy is 400mcg on a daily basis [1]. To know more about the connection between folate and pregnancy, read on. 

Additional read7 Natural Do-It-Yourself Pregnancy Tests You Can Try at Home 

What is folic acid used for? 

Besides getting the right folic acid dose in pregnancy, there are many other uses. Primarily, it forms red blood cells in your body. Also, it:   

  • minimizes the side effects of certain medications  
  • prevents anemia caused due to its deficiency 
  • helps in the development of your baby’s spinal cord, skull, and brain 
  • minimizes high homocysteine levels in your blood [2]

If your homocysteine levels are high, it can cause damage to the lining of your arteries. Severe blood clots may occur that can result in blood vessel blockage.

Who should take folic acid and why? 

Women of reproductive age should get enough folic acid. Ideally, women should consume folic acid daily. This is irrespective of whether you choose to get pregnant or not, as it can help produce new cells. Neural tube defects in the fetus occur at an early developmental stage. Even before you realize that you are pregnant. Having folic acid supplements regularly can minimize the risk for neural defects in an unplanned pregnancy [3].

Since it is soluble in water, the body is able to metabolize it quickly. You can consume folate during pregnancy at any time of the day. Make it a habit to take it every morning. Always consult a gynecologist before taking any vitamins. A high dose of folic acid is recommended for women who have delivered kids with neural tube defects in their previous pregnancies. Other risk factors, where a higher dose is needed, are if: 

  • you have diabetes 
  • your body is unable to absorb nutrients 
  • the neural tube defect problems run in the family 
  • your BMI level exceeds 30
  • you or your partner are suffering from neural tube defects

food sources of folic acid

What happens if there is a folate deficiency? 

If there is a folate deficiency, it means your blood has lower amounts of folic acid in it. A folate deficiency can cause anencephaly and spina bifida in the baby. These birth defects cause major developmental problems in children.

Anencephaly is a condition where a baby is born without major brain parts. Proper formation and closure of neural tube help in the proper development of the skull and brain. Spina bifida is another neural defect problem, where the spine of a baby is not developed properly. As a result, the child may be disabled and unable to use certain limbs.

Folate deficiency occurs if: 

  • you are suffering from conditions that affect the absorption of folic acid 
  • you consume excess alcohol
  • you eat overcooked vegetables
  • you have an unhealthy diet
  • you have undergone kidney dialysis

Additional read5 Hormone Tests for Females to Know and Understand

What are the benefits of taking folic acid while pregnant? 

There are many benefits of taking this prenatal vitamin. Consuming folic acid before or during pregnancy protects the fetus from: 

  • low birth weight problems 
  • premature birth
  • poor growth and development 
  • miscarriage
  • conditions like cleft palate and lip

In fact, folic acid helps reduce the risks of several complications such as: 

  • stroke 
  • pregnancy complications 
  • heart disease 
  • Alzheimer’s disease

When you are trying to conceive you may need 600mcg of this vitamin. Ideally, this is prescribed from your fourth to the ninth month of pregnancy.

Now that you are aware of the importance of folic acid during pregnancy, it is essential to consume foods rich in it. Taking folate supplements before pregnancy is equally important to prevent birth defects in your baby. Consult a gynecologist when you are planning to conceive for more information. Connect with leading doctors easily on Bajaj Finserv Health. Book an online doctor consultation to address your doubts and concerns from the comfort of your home. Get the right medical care on time to enjoy your pregnancy journey! 

Please note that this article is solely meant for informational purposes and Bajaj Finserv Health Limited (“BFHL”) does not shoulder any responsibility of the views/advice/information expressed/given by the writer/reviewer/originator. This article should not be considered as a substitute for any medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult with your trusted physician/qualified healthcare professional to evaluate your medical condition. The above article has been reviewed by a qualified doctor and BFHL is not responsible for any damages for any information or services provided by any third party.

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