Folic acid is a vitamin that is needed for the well functioning of our body. It helps the body synthesize many essential elements and is used in processes such as the production of normal blood cells. Folic acid is also useful in preventing diseases such as some types of anemia.
Another critical role of folic acid is its contribution in the production, repair and replication of DNA and its well functioning. Folic acid is also an essential element that is included in many building blocks of our cells, helping them grow and develop normally.
Why is folic acid so important during pregnancy?
One of the reasons why folic acid is so important during pregnancy is the fact that it is essential in the rapid growth of the cells of the placenta and of your developing baby. In combination with other multivitamin complexes, folic acid can significantly reduce the risk of preeclampsia, which is a serious disorder that can severely affect your baby’s and your own health.
If you’re already pregnant or intend to get pregnant in the near future, you should make sure to include folic acid in your daily diet, since it is not only an essential part in the development of your baby, but it can also prevent serious diseases and disorders.
Benefits of folic acid for women
One of the benefits of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy is the fact that it can significantly lower many health risks. Folic acid is the major factor in the prevention of serious conditions known as neural tube defects. They are debilitating conditions that can severely affect your baby and can result in birth defects such as spina bifida, which affects the spinal cord, and anencephaly, which targets the brain.
Because these defects typically occur in the first few stages of your baby’s development, which is usually before many women even know that they are pregnant. This is the reason why many pregnancies in the US are affected – up to 3000 per year. Therefore, starting to take folic acid if you suspect that you’re pregnant or if you’re planning on becoming pregnant in the near future is so important.
There are other benefits of taking folic during pregnancy that can help protect your baby. By getting the recommended daily dosage, you can prevent your child from developing other serious complications such as cleft lip and palate or from being born underweight. Also, folic acid can prevent a poor development of your baby in the womb and reduces the chances of miscarriage or premature birth.
How much folic acid do you need and which foods contain high concentrations?
Numerous studies have shown that, contrary to what many might believe, the synthetic version of folic acid is absorbed a lot faster and more efficient than its natural counterpart. That shouldn’t prevent you from getting it from natural sources and “supplementing the supplement” to the recommended dosages by taking capsules. You can also have the option of getting folic acid by eating enriched cereals and other various other types of grains which have been fortified with the synthetic version of folic acid, although studies have shown that most women typically don’t eat enough cereals in order to obtain enough folic acid from them.
There are natural foods that are rich in folic acid, and these include lentils, peas and dry beans. Also, there are dark green vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, spinach and citrus fruit and juice that contain high concentrations of folic acid.
Although all these foods are rich in folic acid, eating them even on a daily basis will not supply enough of it. You can still use these natural sources, as you can consider them as a complement to your steady source of folic acid from supplements. Folic acid from natural foods isn’t absorbed entirely, while the synthetic variant is, which is why it is important to make sure you get your recommended dosage from supplements.
The recommended dosage of synthetic folic acid you should take daily is about 400 mcg. Some institutes recommend women to increase the intake to 600 mcg per day once they get pregnant. It is important to note that women should not take more than 1000 mcg daily unless recommended by a healthcare provider.
What do doctors say about folic acid?
Most doctors and clinicians recommend folic acid for women about to get pregnant or during pregnancy. There are many other authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Public Health Service ACOG and the March of Dimes, which recommend all women that can bear children to take a combination of vitamin complex and folic acid supplement daily.
Folic acid deficiency
Although there are many signs that point to folic acid deficiency, they could be subtle enough as to not be diagnosed. Some of the most common symptoms of folic acid deficiency include diarrhea, weight loss and loss of appetite. Also, women with deficiencies might feel weak and experience symptoms such as head aches, heart palpitations and sore tongues, and some might be affected by irritability.
In case women suffer just from mild deficiencies, they might not even notice the symptoms, but that might mean they won’t be getting the optimal amount of folic acid needed for the healthy embryonic development of the baby during the first stages, which is the reason why all women should undergo medical exams prior to conceiving.
Why should women take folic acid before getting pregnant?
Because birth defects usually occur within the first few weeks of pregnancy, which is why it is critical that women have enough folic acid in their bodies during the development of their babies’ brain and spinal cord in order to decrease the risks of neural tube defects.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that according to the statistics, women that start to include folic acid in recommended dosages in their daily diets at least one month before becoming pregnant and also during the first few months of pregnancy can drastically reduce the risk of the baby developing serious disorders, such as the neural tube defects, by 50 to 70 percent.