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  • 29Oct

    Folic acid and pregnancy – why is it recommended to take?

    During the entire time of pregnancy, a baby’s well-being and nutrition is solely dependent on its mother. It means that if a woman has a regular and healthy diet, then a baby is most likely to be healthy as well. In case of mother’s poor nutrition habits, it is more probable that  the complications may occur or the baby might be prone to birth defects.

    Folic Acid

    One nutritional supplement that is highly recommended for pregnant women is folic acid. Folic acid (Vitamin B9) is a part of the B-vitamin group essential for cell division and growth. It is a naturally occurring vitamin, which is a key player in the development of  baby’s neural tubes and in prevention of megaloblastic anemia.

    During pregnancy, a woman’s overall blood volume increases, thereby increasing the need for folic acid. The lack of this vitamin leads to a development of neural tube defects in embryos. In addition, folic acid may also protect the fetus when the mother is smoking, drinking or taking medications during pregnancy.

    Pregnancy and neural tube disorders (NTD)

    The neural tube first appears as a tube-like structure in a fetus’ anatomy and soon develops into its brain and spinal cord. Neural tube defects usually occur when tube fails to close during intra-uterine development. These defects lead to severe issues in the formation of brain and spinal cord.

    Healthy baby

    One nutritional supplement that is highly recommended for pregnant women is folic acid

    There are several types of neural tube disorders:

    Spina bifida occulta is a type of NTD that commonly occurs at the fifth lumbar or first sacral level along the spinal cord wherein the vertebrae fails to fuse. This is usually considered to be a benign disorder.

    Another common NTD is meningocele.  Meningocele happens when the meninges that cover the spinal cord herniates. This disorder happens because of the opening through the unfused vertebrae.

    Myelomeningocele is a protrusion of meninges and spinal cord through the vertebrae. This is a serious condition that results in lowering motor nerve functions. An encephalocele is similar to a meningocele and myelomeningocele but happens in the skull, most commonly in the occipital area.

    Anencephaly is a condition wherein the baby is born with incomplete parts of the brain. This is usually manifested with the absence or reduction of the cerebrum or the cerebellum.

    Megaloblastic Anemia

    Megaloblastic anemia is a kind of condition wherein red blood cells become abnormally large. In consequence it leads to decrease in the number of white blood cells and platelets. In megaloblastic anemia red blood cells often don’t reach the point of maturity. This condition can be reversed by regular intake of folic acid.

    What is the right time to take folic acid?

    Pregnant women should be aware that folic acid would only work if it is taken before pregnancy and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. One way of providing an adequate amount of this essential vitamin is by taking nutritional supplements containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.

    In addition to this, when a woman is believed to be pregnant, it is suggested that she should increase her intake to 600 micrograms per day but should not exceed 1000 micrograms. A prenatal visit to the doctor would be also beneficial in case of any doubts.

    The risk of folic acid toxicity in case of overdosage is low because it is a water-soluble vitamin. That means it can be easily eliminated from body through urination.

    Sources of folic acid

    Folic acid is commonly found in leafy vegetables. Alternative sources of folic acid would include peanuts, fortified cereal, bread and orange juice. If you plan to get pregnant you should always consult your doctor who can balance your diet to be balanced and include proper amount of folic acid.

    Anna L.

    It’s all about health!
    I have academic background in drugs related Chemical Technology, as well as extensive professional experience in pharma and medical companies. My main area of interest is everyday life medicine. The goal of my articles is to give people informative answers to the questions that bother them, to dispel doubts and some common misbeliefs and also to inspire everyone to keep healthy lifestyle.

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