The importance of folic acid

The importance of folic acid

What is folic acid?

Folic acid, or folate (the natural form of folic acid) is a type of vitamin B that our body uses to make new cells. Folic acid is an important nutrient that supports the rapid growth of fetal tissues and organs during the first trimester. Our bodies cannot store folic acid, which is why you need to get folic acid from food or supplements on a regular basis.

The importance of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy:

Folic acid is important for the developing fetus, especially when the spine is forming during the first trimester. Folic acid supplementation has shown to prevent major birth defects such as spina bifida, a condition that affects the spine, and other neural tube defects such as anencephaly, incomplete development of the brain, scalp or skull.


Why is folic acid important even when trying to conceive?

Folic acid supplementation is important when you are planning to have a baby. This is because very often, before you come to know that you’re pregnant, the baby’s neural tube has started to develop during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, it is recommended to take folic acid supplements as early as when you are trying to conceive.


Can I get folic acid from food? Is that enough to protect my baby from neural tube defects?

You can get small amounts of folic acid naturally from many foods, such as:

  • broccoli
  • dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach or cabbage
  • beans
  • peas and nuts

Although getting nutrients from a balanced diet is always good, it may not be enough based on the recommended daily intake of folic acid. Therefore, supplementation is important.


How much folic acid do I need to take?

The recommended dosage is 400 micrograms per day. Most folic acid supplements or prenatal vitamins have a recommended daily amount. You can check the dosage from the label on the bottle to make sure you are getting the right amount you need. If you have any history related to neurological deficits, your doctor may prescribe a higher dose of folic acid.


When should I take folic acid?

You should start folic acid supplementation when you are trying to have a baby. By starting folic acid intake early, you may build up enough folic acid to protect your baby from neural tube defects. Folic acid supplementation should be taken daily until 12 weeks of pregnancy. If you have found out that you are pregnant and have not taken folic acid prior, you should start taking folic acid as soon as possible.

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