• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Why Folic Acid Is Important During Pregnancy?

The moment you go to a gynecologist for a supplementation during pregnancy test, and when it comes out positive, the first and foremost thing your doctor prescribes is folic acid. Do you know why it is important during pregnancy? Here we are discussing the sources of folic acid and the role of folic acid during pregnancy.

What Is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a B9 vitamin that is essential for the synthesis of new cells and the development of a healthy fetus. Folic acid is crucial for neural tube development.

During the entire life, folic acid is required for normal growth and development.

A deficiency of folate can cause anemia and peripheral neuropathy to the mother and congenital abnormalities to the fetus.

What Are The Sources Of Folic Acid?

Fortified Foods

Folic acid-Sources

Green beans, Credits: pexels


The following are sources of folic acid

  1. Vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, English spinach, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, parsnip, sweet corn, zucchini)

  2.  Fruit (avocado, grapefruit, orange)

  3. Legumes (chickpeas, soya beans, lima beans, red kidney beans, lentils, haricot beans)

  4. Eggs

  5. Nuts

  6. Juices (many apple and orange juices)

  7. Corn masa flour

 Check the nutrient facts label, and ensure that the product has a 100% folate.

Supplementation

Many prenatal vitamins contain 600mcg of folic acid.

Folic Acid Supplementation during Pregnancy

Folic acid supplementation

A woman with medicines in her hand,Credits: pexels


During the early stages of development, folic acid helps in the formation of the neural tube. Women during their reproductive years require 400 micrograms of folic acid per day because most of the birth defects in the baby’s brain or spine occur very early in pregnancy (3-4 weeks after conception) before most women know they are pregnant.

Why Folic Acid Is Important Supplementation  During Pregnancy?

Folic acid necessary during the early stages of development

A fetus, Credits: pexels


It is estimated that approximately 3,000 babies are born with neural tube defects (NTD) in the United States each year.The prevalence of NTD in India is 4.5 per 1000 total births.

A Neural tube is an embryonic structure that is formed early in pregnancy. It is a narrow sheath that closes to form the brain and spinal cord of the embryo.

During the process of embryonic development, the top portion of the neural tube becomes the brain and the remainder becomes the spinal cord.  This process of closure of the neural tube gets over by the 28th day of pregnancy. The problems that happen during this process result in a condition called spina bifida. In this condition, the spine does not close fully and results in damage to the spinal column.

In some cases, this defect can be very much visible which can result in an opening in the back. In others, there can be no opening and the defect remains concealed under the skin.

Other conditions like Anencephaly (the brain does not develop properly) can also happen if the neural tube does not close properly.

Babies born with NTD may need to have surgeries and can have long term disabilities.

Folic acid supplementation has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects.

Maternal folic acid supplementation is shown to significantly reduce the risks of congenital heart defects. These defects happen when the heart or blood vessels don’t grow normally before birth. Folic acid supplementation during early pregnancy helps prevent cleft lip and cleft palate

When Do I Require A Higher Dose Of Folic Acid?

During the following conditions, you may require high doses of folic acid.

  1. Either you or your baby’s biological father has a neural tube defect.

  2. You had a previous pregnancy affected by an_

  3. If there is a family history of NTD

  4. You have diabetes

  5. You are on medications for epilepsy, asthma, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and psoriasis.

  6. If you have kidney disease and on dialysis

  7. Have sickle cell disease

  8. Liver disease

Take-Home Message

It is advisable to take folic acid supplementation if you plan to get pregnant as this vitamin is essential to you and your baby.

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