Folic acid or folate is a water-soluble member belonging to the vitamin B family, which is necessary for cell growth and reproduction.
While you are pregnant, consumption of folic acid plays an important role in taking care of your baby’s neutral tube that develops in the brain and spinal cord. As your uterus enlarges, your placenta develops; hence your body circulates more blood. Due to the increase blood volume, foliate requirements arise in your body which can be nourished only by a good supply of folic acid.
Benefits of Folic Acid Before Pregnancy
A significant proportion of women, have low dietary folate intake and do not use folic acid supplements. It is best to start your folic acid intake from months before you plan to conceive. It helps to protect your fetus against diseases. Here are some pointers for you to keep in mind on why folic acid before pregnancy is essential:
- It helps prevent miscarriage, avoid complications and birth defects. Also, neural tube defects (NTDs) that include spinal bifida (a congenital defect in which vertebra is malformed) and anencephaly (a defect in brain development resulting in small or missing brain hemispheres) can be avoided.
- Dietary fortification with folic acid supplements reduces the occurrence of neural tube defects (NTDs) and other congenital anomalies by preventing nutritional deficiency.
- Folic acid shields your baby from risks of palate (roof of the mouth), miscarriage and cleft lip.
- Deficiency of folic acid increases risk of preterm delivery and increases homocyestine level in your blood, which may lead to unprompted abortion and pregnancy complications.
- Folic acid is required for healthy development of your cells and protection from any damage, which may lead to cancer in later stage of life.
[ Read: Food To Get Pregnant ]
Pre Pregnancy Folic Acid Intake
In general, most pregnancies are unplanned and therefore to prevent certain birth defects, it is good to start taking folic acid supplements beforehand. It is advisable to take folic acid supplements three months prior you plan to conceive and then for the first three months of pregnancy.
[ Read: Pre Pregnancy Care ]
Effects of Taking Folic Acid Before Pregnancy
Although there seem to be, many benefits of taking folic acid supplements, it may also invite some unwanted effects if taken in excess. Studies have shown some negative results that mothers who were taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy had children born with asthma and infant respiratory tract infections. Most alarming was where another study compared that women who took folic acid during their pregnancy were more likely to succumb from breast cancer than those who did not.
Studies also suggest about the additional health risk associated with taking folic acid includes development of colon cancer when preneoplastic cells are present. Do weigh the positive outcomes with the risks, as there are many benefits as well disadvantages of taking folic acid. If you feel you have taken any excess folic acid before and during your pregnancy, immediately see your doctor if any of the side effects such as troubled while breathing, fever, general discomfort, tightening in chest and skin rash occurs.
How Much Folic Acid Before Pregnancy?
The American Academy of Pediatric recommends that all women who are capable of becoming pregnant must consume 400 mg of folic acid every day to prevent groups of neural tube defects (NTDs). Here are some guidelines regarding folic acid intake:
- If you are trying to conceive or in your early pregnancy days, it is advisable to take 400 mcv.
- At the time of four to nine months during pregnancy you must intake 600 mcg, while during breastfeeding the intake should be 500 mcg.
- A higher dose of folic acid supplement is needed for women suffering from diabetes, epilepsy, other health disorders and also for women who has a genetic factor of neural tube defects. Consult your doctor for this.
- If you are among those women who previously had a neural tube defect (NTDs) affected pregnancy, you should intake folic acid of 4000mg daily at least one month prior to conception.
[ Read: Fertility Yoga ]
Sources of Foods Rich in Folic Acid
In general, it is preferred to get natural dietary folate from foods, rather than taking folic acid supplements. Here are some folic acid-rich foods:
1. Vegetables: Include peas, jacket potato, broccoli, peas, asparagus, lady finger, beet-root, mustard greens, baby carrot, cauliflower, corn, lettuce and green pepper. Leafy green vegetable is considered a good source of folic acid, so consume much of radish, spinach and fenugreek daily.
2. Fruits: Include oranges, watermelons, kiwi, blackberries, banana, pineapple, medium papaya (115mcg), raspberries and strawberries. Fruits are rich in vitamins and a good source of folate.
3. Nuts: Include walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, cashew nut and peanuts. When planning for a healthy snack at home boost your folate intake by simply enjoying a healthy diet essential for healthy pregnancies.
4. Grains: Include oats, pasta, cereals, brown rice and whole grain flour. These grains digest more slowly and provide a slow, steady stream for energy. Fortified cereals can be taken in the morning with low fat milk or you can simply keep munching throughout the day.
5. Legumes: Include lentils, chickpeas, meats, kidney beans, wheat germ and soya bean. These foods don’t substitute for folic acid supplements. Instead, consider them as a compliment to your supplement.
Do not mix folate and folic acid as they have the same effects. Folate is found in foods and folic acid- synthetically produced, is the man-made version available in the form of supplements that is added to various foods. Folic acid tablets before pregnancy is not advisable. It is best to take folic acids in food form rather than tablets as it’s completely packed with all sorts of nutrients, which is superb for you and your baby. If you have more doubts, your physician is the best person to turn to. Good luck!
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