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We all are aware of how good nutrients are essential for the expecting woman and her baby. Folic acid is a human-made version of folate, a B Vitamin that plays several roles in the human body. Folic is vital because it can prevent some major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. In order to keep the baby healthy, consumption of folic acid is super important and helpful. 

Many of you would not be aware of Folic acid, so let us know about it and how it benefits you and your baby. 

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid (or folate) is a B-vitamin (B9) found mostly in dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, legumes such as beans and peas, and enriched grains. The folic acid is extremely important for the growth of the neural tube. The lack of folic acid causes deficiency in RBC that stops the development of the neural tube. 

What is a neural tube?

The neural tube is one of the first things your baby will grow. It will become your baby’s brain and spinal cord and the bones that enclose them. The neural tube is formed in the first four to six weeks of pregnancy. 

A neural tube defect can happen when something goes wrong in the development of a baby’s neural tube. This can cause a range of disabilities including loss of bladder and bowel control, and paralysis of the legs. In some cases, the effects can be more severe.

What are the neural tube defects?

Neural tube defects are birth defects that involve incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord. The most common neural tube defects are

  • Spina Bifida- when the spinal cord and spinal column don't completely close.
  • Anencephaly- when the skull, scalp, and brain do not form properly
  • Encephalocele- when brain tissue protrudes out to the skin through an opening in the skull

These defects happen during the first 28 days of pregnancy. That is usually before a woman even knows that she’s pregnant. 

What are the benefits of Folic acid?

Folic acid helps the body to make new cells, including red blood cells. People who do not get enough folic acid may develop a condition called folate deficiency anemia. People who have this condition; their body cannot make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. The deficiency of red blood cells can affect many aspects of health, including organ functions. A woman needs more folic acid than usual if she is expecting as it helps the fetus to grow and develop.  

Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should get at least 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid daily before conception and for at least 3 months afterward.

When to take folic acid?

If you’re planning to get pregnant, you should start taking folic acid supplements, even before you start trying. This is because the neural tube defects occur early in development, often before you learn that you’re pregnant. 

Half of the pregnancies are unplanned, hence experts recommend that anyone who can get pregnant take folic acid supplements. It ensures that even if a pregnancy is a surprise, the neural tube defects are likely to be low. 

You should take a supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid per day from 12 weeks before you become pregnant through to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Although if you’re confused about how much folic acid you should be taking, you should consult a doctor or your healthcare provider. Take help and guidance from the doctor and intake folic acid supplements accordingly. 

Apart from this, it is also vital to eat healthy food that contains folic.

Good sources of folate include:

  • Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, lettuce, asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli
  • Beans 
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Fresh fruits & juices 
  • Whole grains
  • Seafood

You must be wondering if there are any side effects of the folate or folic acid. 

Are there any risks from Folic acid?

Generally, when taken orally, and at appropriate doses, folic acid is safe. If you consume too much folic acid your body gets rid of any excess in your urine. 

Some people may experience minor side effects from taking the supplements like:

  • Bad taste in your mouth
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Disturbance in sleep pattern

Signs of an allergic reaction to folic acid:

  • Skin rash
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Difficulty in breathing

Folic acid or folate is very important to intake. Make sure you do! Consult us at Diva Womens Hospital for maternity care or fetal medicine.

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