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The Importance of Folic Acid in Pregnancy.
Folic acid is one of the important vitamins pregnant women must take as it helps ensure the baby’s health and protects him/her from several diseases.
In this blog, I have touched upon some important aspects of folic acid and tried to provide answers to all the possible questions you could have about it.
What Is Folic Acid?
It’s a B Vitamin, which is also called folate or folacin. It is mainly found in dark green vegetables like spinach & broccoli. It’s also present in beans, green peas, legumes, grains and liver (meat).
What Are the Benefits of Folic Acid?
Folic acid helps in the production of red blood cells. It also helps in the development of the baby’s neural tube into his/her brain and spinal cord. It also helps in the development of the baby’s brain, skull, and spine. It protects babies from neural tube defects (NTDs), risk of cleft lip, palate or heart and urinary tract defects also.
What Is Neural Tube?
In the early stage of the pregnancy, a baby’s central nervous system starts developing. A neural plate forms which then folds in on itself and it becomes the neural tube. One end of the neural tube forms the brain, while the rest forms the spinal cord.
What are Neural Tube Defects?
Incomplete development of the brain and spinal cord are known as neural tube defects. The common ones are:
- Encephalocele – It’s one of the rare types of neural tube defects wherein the brain tissues protrude out to the skin through
an opening in the skull.
- Spina Bifida – This happens when a baby’s spinal cord fails to develop or close properly when the baby is in the womb.
- Anencephaly – This is a very rare disease. It happens due to the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp.
The above defects happen between the 23rd and 26th days of pregnancy. Many times, the woman is unaware that she is pregnant. To avoid these defects, women should include folic acid in their diet.
How Much Folic Acid Should You Consume?
The dosage differs as per the stages. The recommended dose for the women who are trying to conceive is 400 micrograms of folate every day. After the pregnancy is confirmed, for the first three months, it should be 400 micrograms every day, later (four to nine months of pregnancy), it should be 600 micrograms of folate every day. After delivery, when the woman is breastfeeding, it should be 500 micrograms every day.
To be on a safer side always speaks to your doctor before taking any medicines.
What Are the Best Natural Sources of Folic Acid?
Folic acid can be found in natural sources like –
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Fruit juices
- Wheat germ
- Sunflower seeds
Eating the right amount of healthy food is always beneficial in birth
planning. You may also consult your doctor whenever needed.