Folic Acid: The Nutrient’s Importance before and during Pregnancy

Diet in pregnancy includes vitamins and minerals, which will give you strength to respond to various changes in your body. You could get these nutrients from food or daily supplements.
taking folic acid

Among commonly advised nutrients to a woman planning to get pregnant or already conceiving are folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, and riboflavin.

Out of the nutrients mentioned, folic acid in the body of a pregnant woman appears to be most important. The water-soluble B vitamin appears to be helpful in preventing birth defects and risks of other health problems.

In other words, the folic acid deficiency on pregnancy could lead to various problems that may affect your baby, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and macular degeneration.

How Important Is Folic Acid for the Body?

Before you proceed into understanding the essence of folic acid to pregnant women, you have to learn how helpful the nutrient is.

The B vitamin is also called vitamin B9 or folate. It could be found in beans, leafy greens, and pastas. Several studies have shown that folic acid could address different conditions, starting with heart health. Folate could protect your heart by pairing with vitamin B12 to assist amino acid metabolism. Consequently, blood clots, heart attacks, and cardiovascular disease would be prevented.

Folic acid could also serve as a natural remedy for depression. The supplement could enhance the current antidepressant drugs you take. People who are deficient in the nutrient tend to have less of a response to medication for depression. Moreover, folate serves as a regulator of mood.

If you want to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the nutrient also helps by warding off its symptoms. Men and women who have regularly taken the supplement at a 400 mcg dose were able to cut the disease risk by 50%.

The nutrient breaks down triglycerides, resulting to better prevention of diabetes. The fats are usually found in the blood, which are converted to energy. High levels of triglycerides are related to type 2 diabetes.

Cancer worries could also be eliminated by having a proper supply of folic acid. It could reduce the high risks of colorectal cancer and other types of the disease. It works by creating new cells, repairing DNA, and changing chemicals that affect the DNA.

Do You Need Folic Acid before Pregnancy?

Experts would always advise pregnant women to take folic acid before pregnancy. Can folic acid prevent a miscarriage?

New research concerning folate and pregnancy showed a significant relationship between the two factors. A study released by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology revealed that women who took a higher dose of the nutrient before conception had lower chances of miscarrying.

Relative to this, Nurses’ Health Study II showed that female nurses who were pregnant between 1992 and 2009 had no miscarriage record. This is due to consumption of a recommended amount of folate.

The women reported that they had taken folic acid supplements at over 730 mcg every day. It also appears that taking folate through supplement form is more effective than obtaining the nutrient from food.

In addition, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommended all childbearing-aged women take 400 mcg of folic acid daily. This will help protect your baby even before determining your conception.

What Are the Neural Tube Defects on Babies?

The folic acid effects on pregnancy center on prevention of neural tube defects. The abnormalities are found in the spine, brain, and the spinal cord. This happens in the pregnancy’s initial month, even before a woman knows she is carrying a baby.

There are no exact causes of the problem. However, you will be at risk of the problem if you are obese, and have poorly-controlled diabetes. If you are presently ingesting medicines against seizures, you might as well cause your infant to be affected by a neural tube defect.

The diagnosis of a neural tube defect could be done before childbirth through imaging examinations and laboratory tests.

Be reminded that this problem has no cure. Nonetheless, there are still ways to mitigate further damages caused by the problem and respond to complications.

Spina Bifida: The First of Problematic Neural Tube Defects

The first common type of neural tube defect is spina bifida. The problem occurs in different forms of severity. The mildest form of the problem is spina bifida occulta. Common symptoms of the problem include an abnormal hair tuft, birthmarks, fat collection, and small dimples. Take note that these indications are seen on the baby’s skin.

The second type of problem is meningocele. This is a rare form, which is characterized by spinal cord-surrounding protective membranes being pushed out through vertebrae openings. These membranes are usually removed surgically with little to no disruption on nerve pathways.

The most severe form of the defect is myelomeningocele, or open spina bifida. From the name itself, it is characterized by spinal canal openings along several lower or middle vertebrae. At birth, the protrusion of the spinal cord and membranes develop.

Consequently, the baby’s back will develop a sac. Neurological disabilities will be traced as well, such as bladder problems, paralysis-involving muscle weakness, orthopedic problems, and seizures.

Anencephaly: A More Serious Form of Birth Defect

Anencephaly is another neural tube defect. During childbirth, it is apparent your baby will be born without some parts of the brain and skull. This usually happens when the neural tube’s upper parts do not close all the way.

It is estimated that up to three pregnancies out of 10,000 are associated with anencephaly. Each year in the United States, about 1,206 pregnancies are anencephaly-impaired.

The most unfortunate part about this problem is that it has no cure or standard medical appropriation. It is expected that babies with anencephaly will die briefly after delivery.

How to Take Folic Acid for Protected Pregnancy

You should take the supplement as prescribed by your OB-GYN specialist. At times, women are recommended to take 5 mg of folic acid every day until they are three months pregnant. There are cases where your doctor will change the doses depending on your needs.

Do not take the supplement in larger amounts than prescribed. Moreover, be reminded that there will be a certain period when you can take the medication. Take the supplement with a full glass of water each time.

Are There Side Effects to Taking Folic Acid?

When taken properly and as instructed, you will not suffer from serious side effects. You should greatly avoid large doses, however, for this will lead to behavior changes, irritability, upset stomach, skin reactions, gas development, and seizures.

If you have heart disease, anemia, seizure disorder, or cancer, consult your doctor beforehand regarding whether or not you should take the supplement.

In addition, take note of the medications you currently ingest that may interact with the supplement. Other medications whose doses should be changed while taking folic acid are nitrofurantoin, phenytoin, tetracycline, phenytoin, primidone, methotrexate, and pyrimethamine.

The Best Food Source of Folic Acid

folic acid supplement

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Apart from folic acid in supplement form, you could also obtain it from several foods. Primarily, you have the dark leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, and spinach. Other options you have are asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits, beans, avocado, okra, and Brussels sprouts. The food could give you as high as 65% of the daily recommended value of folic acid.

Folic acid not only keeps you from health risks, but also assures the healthy development of your baby. Now that you are aware how important folic acid on pregnancy is, start coordinating with your doctor on how you could improve your diet with the supplement.

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