Folic Acid before Pregnancy
Taking folic acid before pregnancy (and during) can help prevent birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Your health care professional will advise you with regards to folic acid and your personal health plan and which required nutrients you should be taking before pregnancy.
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is a form of a B vitamin called folate. The reason that folate is important before pregnancy is because it plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells and helps your baby’s neural tube develop into the brain and spinal cord.
Benefits of Folic Acid
One study showed that women who took folic acid for at least a year before getting pregnant cut their chances of delivering early by 50% or more.
If you do not have sufficient folic acid in your body, your baby’s neural tube may not close correctly which could lead to health problems called neural tube defects. These include:
• Spina bifida – incomplete development of the spinal cord or the vertebrae
• Anencephaly – incomplete development of major parts of the brain
When taken before and during pregnancy, folic acid may also protect your baby against:
- Premature birth
- Cleft lip and palate
- Low birth weight
- Poor growth in the womb
When to Take Folic Acid before Pregnancy
Research has shown that birth defects occur within the first month of pregnancy so you need to take folic acid before pregnancy. You need to build-up folate in your system prior to conception for when your baby’s brain and spinal cord are developing during this first month.
The CDC recommends that you start taking folic acid every day for at least a month before you become pregnant. They also suggest you take it every day while you are pregnant.
According to the CDC, if you’ve already had a baby with a neural tube defect, getting enough folic acid may reduce your risk of having another child with a neural tube defect by as much as 70%.
Prenatal Vitamin with Folic Acid
When you are trying to get pregnant, you should book in a visit with your doctor to review your current health and make the required changes as advised. Depending on your personal situation, your doctor may advise you to start taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid.
Not all prenatal vitamins are the same and your doctor will have a view on which ones are the best. So, before buying a prenatal vitamin, see what your doctor recommends to ensure you are getting the recommended amount of folic acid.
How Much Folic Acid Should I Take?
The recommended dose for all women of childbearing age is 400 mcg of folate each day. This may vary when pregnant so ask your doctor for specific dose requirements at various stages throughout your pregnancy.
Good Food Sources of Folic Acid
The best food sources of folic acid are fortified cereals. Folate is found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits. Foods that can help you get more folic acid in your diet also include; lentils, beef liver, spinach, cereals and egg noodles.