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What Are the Benefits of Folic Acid for Pregnant Women?

 

What Are the Benefits of Folic Acid for Pregnant Women?

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Folic acid is a B vitamin and an important nutrient for pregnant women and those who want to become pregnant. Folic acid is crucial during pregnancy because it helps prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. It also helps reduce the risk of other serious birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine (known as neural tube defects). These include spina bifida, where the spinal column doesn't close all the way around the baby's spine, and anencephaly, where part of the brain or skull doesn't form.

Taking folic acid supplements before getting pregnant and while you're pregnant can help prevent these birth defects from happening. But on its own, folic acid won't always prevent neural tube defects. That's why it's important to talk with your health care provider about taking a folic acid supplement if you're planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant.

Here are some ways that folic acid can be beneficial for your unborn child.

 

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin that you have probably heard a lot about. Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, fruits, and beans. It's also found in some breakfast cereals, bread, pasta, and rice.

It's also possible to take folic acid as a supplement. Pregnant women are recommended to take at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day to prevent neural tube defects from happening.

 

Why is folic acid important for pregnant women?

Folic acid is a B vitamin and an important nutrient for pregnant women and those who want to become pregnant. Folic acid is crucial during pregnancy because it helps prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. It also helps reduce the risk of other serious birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine (known as neural tube defects). These include spina bifida, where the spinal column doesn't close all the way around the baby's spine, and anencephaly, where part of the brain or skull doesn't form.

Taking folic acid supplements before getting pregnant and while you're pregnant can help prevent these birth defects from happening. But on its own, folic acid won't always prevent neural tube defects. That's why it's important to talk with your health care provider about taking a folic acid supplement if you're planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant.

 

How does folic acid prevent birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine?

Folic acid plays an important role in the formation of the neural tube, which eventually develops into the baby's brain and spine. The neural tube starts to form a few weeks after a woman becomes pregnant.

If a pregnant woman doesn't get enough folic acid in her diet, she's more likely to have a baby with birth defects of the brain or spine. The risk for these birth defects increases as pregnancy progresses.

But there are other things that can make it hard for a woman to get enough folic acid, like having certain medical conditions or taking certain medicines. In those cases, a doctor may prescribe a higher dose of folic acid supplements for the mother-to-be.

Even if you're already taking enough folic acid from food and supplements, it's important to keep doing so during your pregnancy because sometimes women lose their appetite or forget to take their vitamins when they're expecting.

 

Who needs to take a folic acid supplement?

So who needs to take a folic acid supplement? It's not just pregnant women. Anyone who wants to become pregnant should talk to their healthcare provider and learn how much folic acid they need and when they need to start taking it.

For example, if you're thinking about getting pregnant and you're not yet on any form of birth control, you'll want to take a folic acid supplement before you conceive. The same goes for women who are breastfeeding because they may not be able to get enough folic acid from their diet alone.

It's also important for people with an increased risk of neural tube defects because they may not be able to absorb the right amount of folate from their diets. This includes people with:

1) Alcohol use disorder (severe alcoholism).

2) Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis (inflammatory bowel diseases).

3) Cystic fibrosis (a genetic condition that affects the lungs and digestive system).

 

When should a pregnant woman start taking a folic acid supplement?

Women who are planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant should start taking a folic acid supplement as soon as they know. Taking folic acid while you're trying to get pregnant is just as important because some neural tube defects can be prevented if taken at least one month before conception.

If you're not already pregnant, talk to your doctor about taking a folic acid supplement or multivitamin that contains 400 mcg of folic acid per day. This will help protect against neural tube defects in the future.

 

What happens if you don't take a folic acid supplement during pregnancy?

Women who don't take a folic acid supplement during pregnancy are at more risk of having a baby with neural tube defects.

It's important to talk with your health care provider about taking a folic acid supplement if you're planning to become pregnant or are already pregnant. It's also important for women who are already pregnant and not taking an adequate amount of folic acid supplements to start taking them now.

Start taking folic acid today by talking with your doctor about the right dosage for you.

 

Conclusion

Folic acid is an essential nutrient for pregnant women, and it has many benefits for both mom and baby. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it’s important to start taking folic acid supplements as soon as you learn your pregnancy is confirmed. This will help ensure the health of your unborn child.


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