When should you start taking Folic Acid?If you're pregnant or might become pregnant, it's important to get enough folic acid. Gynecologists highly recommend that you start taking folic acid supplements every day for at least 1 month before you become pregnant. Better if you start 3 months in advance. If you find you are pregnant and have not been taking folic acid, you should start now to help prevent any neural defects in the first three months of pregnancy. Why before pregnancy? Doctors say only about 50% of pregnancies are planned. Birth defects occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. Neural tube is formed at a very early stage of foetus development and may occur way before you even know you are pregnant. Taking a prenatal vitamin with folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of your baby's brain and spinal cord by 50% to 70%. So, it's important to have folate in your system during those early stages, first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when your baby's brain and spinal cord are developing. Some studies show that taking prenatal folic acid supplements at the time of conception is associated with a lower risk of “Autism” as well. All women of child bearing age should get enough folic acid – not just those who are planning to become pregnant. Its better you start taking folic before you start trying to conceive.
How does it work?Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). Your baby's spine and brain (in fact the nervous system), develop from the neural tube, a part of the embryo. When there is an inadequate quantity of folic acid in your body, your baby's neural tube may not close correctly and he/she could develop neural tube defects. These include:
- Spina bifida: Incomplete development of the spinal cord or vertebrae.
- Anencephaly: Incomplete development of the brain.
- Cleft lip and palate
- Congenital heart defects
- Poor growth in the womb
- Premature birth
- Low birth weight
How Much Folic Acid Should You Take?Here's how much folic acid is recommended each day in terms of pregnancy:
- Pre-pregnancy: 400 micrograms (mcg)
- 1st trimester (Week 1 through week 12) of pregnancy: 400 mcg
- 2nd & 3rd triemster: 600 mcg
- While breastfeeding: 500 mcg
Natural Sources of Folic AcidDark green vegetables are good sources of folic acid. Overcooking GLV’s can cause folic acid content to drop considerably. If you eat foods rich in folate, consider them a complement to your supplement. The foods that can help you obtain your recommended amount of folic acid are:
- Kidney Beans, peas
- Nuts – groundnuts, almonds
- Sunflower seeds
- Dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, kale
- Citrus fruit and juice
- Fruits such as bananas, melons, and lemons
- Okra and the slimy vegetable is rich in folate. It also cleanses the entire digestive tract of toxic build-up. Half a cup of cooked okra will give you approximately 103 mcg of folic acid.
Mommy of a 2 year old, currently pursuing her interest in writing as a freelancer, where she can spend more time with her son. Having worked as a finance professional, she took a long break from her career after her son was born. Along with writing she is also pursuing her passion in fashion designing.