Folic Acid - Why You Need it Before and During Pregnancy

Folic Acid - Why You Need it Before and During Pregnancy

Casey Bautista

A stable and healthy baby is born from a healthy woman. Therefore, you need to take great care of yourself in this beautiful period of life known as pregnancy. That includes taking care of the small body growing inside you. You may have heard the name of folic acid just when you've talked about multivitamins, but you may never have wondered how important it really is to your body. Doctors specifically prescribe this to pregnant women, and several other people also recommend consuming it during pregnancy. But do you know why you need folic acid for health during pregnancy?

What is Folic Acid?

Also known as folate, in simple terms, folic acid is vitamin 'B,' especially vitamin B9. Usually, folic acid is found in active folate form, present in dark leafy vegetables, in whole grains, bananas, oranges, etc. It is especially beneficial for the health of pregnant women.

Folic Acid and Pregnant Women

Why is folic acid so necessary for pregnant women? What is unique in this specific vitamin for pregnant women that makes it different from the rest? This particular vitamin is beneficial not only for your health but also for the health of your child. Folic acid helps to increase the speed of umbilical cord cell growth and protects the baby from birth defects in the womb, which is actually one of the main reasons for which folic acid is given to pregnant women. In fact, folic acid is a daily necessity, even women who are planning to get pregnant.

Folic acid and vitamin B12 work to build healthy red blood cells, necessary for good health. The lack of folic acid in women can be a cause of anemia disease.

Why Should Folic Acid be Taken Before Pregnancy?

It's recommended to use folic acid at the earliest time of pregnancy as possible to contribute to the growth of a healthy fetus, especially when the baby's spine is developing. The intake of folic acid can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTD), the most common of which are:

  1. When the development of the spine and spinal cord is incomplete, it is called spina bifida.
  2. When the baby's brain develops very little, it is called encephalitis.
  3. Ancephalose, a condition in which the baby's skull has an abnormal hole from which brain tissues emerge.

Babies suffering from these severe defects usually fail to survive for a long time, and children suffering from spina bifida can be disabled forever. It is crucial to keep in mind that all of the above birth defects occur during the first 28 days of pregnancy, which is extremely important, as most of the time, women are not aware of their pregnancy! That is why most pregnant women should consume a proper amount of folic acid, especially if they are thinking of becoming mothers.

How Much Folic Acid Should You Take Before Pregnancy and During Pregnancy?

Unfortunately, for most women, it is not possible to get their daily need of folic acid only from foods, and that is why they may need a vitamin supplement.

Folic Acid Before Pregnancy

A dosage of 400 mg of folic acid is recommended for pregnant women, and they should even start taking it before they get pregnant to meet their daily needs for this nutrient.

A brief description of the amount of folic acid taken during different stages of pregnancy is given here. However, keep in mind that any supplements should be given according to individual needs, and you should consult with your doctor to know the appropriate supplements and their quantity.

  1. In the first three months, it should be around 400 micrograms
  2. From 4th month to 9th month, it should be around 600-800 micrograms
  3. When breastfeeding, it should be 500 micrograms

Symptoms and Treatment of Folic Acid Deficiency

The symptoms of folic acid deficiency may not be acute and may not be too obvious. When your body is not deficient, you may not see any signs, but that means you are not getting any amount of information for your child's early fetal development. Keep in mind that many of these symptoms are common symptoms and may also be signs of other diseases.

Folate deficiency symptoms are quite similar to iron deficiency symptoms. If you see any of the above symptoms, you would be advised to consult a doctor for a correct diagnosis before taking an over-the-counter medicine. Furthermore, a proper medical checkup can help distinguish the root causes.

Folic acid deficiency is usually treated by taking folic acid tablets in the amount indicated by your doctor. Also, incorporating foods rich in folic acid into your diet can be beneficial for your health. These include dark leafy vegetables, cereals, fortified bread, and citrus fruits. 

Foods Enriched with Folic Acid

Of course, folic acid supplements are available, but eating foods containing folic acid is also suitable for health. No supplement can replace a healthy diet, so during pregnancy, make sure that you consume both.

Since folic acid is heat-sensitive, it is essential to keep in mind that you do not cook excessively while cooking folate-rich foods, as it will destroy the nutrients. Folate-rich foods and vegetables should be cooked a little, boiled, or eaten raw.