The Importance of Folic Acid for Pregnant Women

During any pregnancy pregnant women are told they need to take certain things. One of those things is folic acid. A lot of people have heard of folic acid, but are not entirely sure how beneficial this product is. Folic acid is essential to many functions that the body performs.  Both children and adults need to have a certain amount each day to keep themselves healthy. Pregnant women need to especially watch their folic acid intake to keep themselves healthy, as well as their growing babies.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a B-vitamin that plays a role in cell production and division. It helps to produce healthy red blood cells and to prevent anemia. The lack of folic acid, especially for a pregnant woman, is a scary thing.  Many birth defects, specifically neural tube defects, are possible if not enough folic acid is taken. Spina bifida and anencephaly are the two most common birth defects caused by the lack of folic acid.  Anencephaly is especially serious since this is a condition where the brain does not form properly. The majority of children born with this condition will not survive. Those who do survive will most likely be severely handicapped. 

Folic acid is vital in aiding to develop the neural tube. This is what develops the brain and spinal cord in a growing fetus. Taking the proper amount of folic acid reduces the risk of neural tube defects by almost 70%.  Folic acid protects against other pregnancy complications.  Preeclampsia is a common condition that happens to pregnant women and taking folic acid reduces the risk for this condition. Premature birth risks are also reduced by up to 50% by taking folic acid.

When to Take

As soon as you find out you are pregnant, one of the first things a doctor will tell you is to take a prenatal vitamin that is high in folic acid.  In an ideal situation, folic acid will have been taken before getting pregnant and continued through the duration of the pregnancy.  The longer folic acid was taken before getting pregnant, the better. It is recommended that pregnant women take at least 400 mcg per day. If you have had a previous child with neural tube defects, your folic acid intake will be much higher. The dose will be determined by your doctor.

Foods High in Folic Acid

In addition to taking a folic acid-enriched vitamin, many foods contain high levels of folic acid. Asparagus, bananas, oranges, orange juice, broccoli, spinach, peas and peanuts are just a few foods to consider when looking to increase your folic acid levels.

Taking folic acid can only lead to a positive outcome. Lacking folic acid is where the real danger is and can have severe side effects for both the mother and the growing fetus.

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