If you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, taking folic acid will help you stay healthy and aid in your baby's development.
Benefits for Baby:
Folic acid helps to prevent birth defects like neural tubes, birth defects of the spinal cord (spina bifida) and brain. Research shows that folic acid can also keep cleft lips, cleft palates, and certain heart defects from happening. Studies done by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states women who take folic acid daily through a prenatal vitamin at least a month prior to conception and during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, reduce their child's risk of these defects by up to 70 percent.
Not only does your sweet passenger get great benefits, but you do too! Moms who took folic acid regularly during their pregnancy reduced their risk of preeclampsia- a serious blood pressure disorder. By making healthy red blood cells, folic acid produces, repairs, and strengthens the functioning of your DNA. In order to keep up with the fast pace production of the placenta and your ever growing baby, folic acid is crucial during the first two trimesters.
Food Sources of Folic Acid:
Foods that are naturally rich in folate can be a good source to ensure you are getting enough of this super nutrient in your pregnancy diet. Look for dark, leafy foods like spinach or romaine lettuce. Citrus foods and juices are also full of folate. Dried beans, avocados, nuts and peas are also a good source of folate.
While you may be eating these foods regularly, it still may not be enough. The nutrients that folate offers can often be destroyed in cooking. Talk to your health care provider about taking a supplement to help balance your folate intake.
Just the Right Amount:
Since every woman and every pregnancy is different, you may not need the same amount of folate as someone else.
Since half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, the CDC, the U.S. Public Health Service, the March of Dimes, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), recommended that all women 20-35 years of age get 400mcg of folic acid every day. If you are currently pregnant the U.S. National Institutes of Health recommends taking at least 600mcg daily.
In some cases women may need more folic acid than the recommended amount. If you are significantly overweight, have had a previous pregnancy with neural tube defects, or carrying twins, your doctor may prescribe you to take 1,00mcg of folic acid a day.