Folic acid is an essential prenatal vitamin which can help prevent birth defects of your baby’s brain and spinal cord.
It is advised that you take the recommended 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day starting a month before you try to become pregnant and during your pregnancy. However, it is best to get the recommended amount from your healthcare practitioner due to differences in body type.
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic Acid is a water soluble vitamin belonging to the B-complex group of vitamins. They help your body break down complex carbs into simple sugars to be used as energy. Excess B vitamins are excreted from the body, thus making it necessary to have sufficient daily intake of this vitamin.
Folic acid is found in leafy green vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, beets, brussel sprouts, poultry, liver, wheat germ, mushrooms, oranges, bananas, strawberries, and more.
Why Should You Take Folic Acid?
1. Birth Defects Occur Early
Did you known that birth defect occur within the first 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy? It is extremely vital to have folic acid in your system during the early stages of your baby’s brain and spinal cord development.
2. Preventing Neural Tube Defects
Folate deficiency might affect your baby’s neural tube. A neural tube is a hollow structure from which the brain and spinal cord form. These health problems are called neural tube defects. They include:
- Spina bifida: an inborn defect of the spine such that part of the spinal cord and meninges become exposed through a gap in the backbone. This could potentially cause paralysis of the lower limbs, and at times, learning difficulties.
- Anencephaly: a severe congenital condition such that a large part of the skull is absent a long with its cerebral hemispheres of the brain. Usually, babies with anencephaly do not live long.
3. Protection Against Other Defects
- Premature birth
- Cleft lip and palate
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Pregnancy complications
4. Your General Health
Folic acid helps your baby produce normal red blood cells and prevents a certain kind of anemia. It is vital for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA. Thus, it speeds up cell growth for your placenta and developing baby.
Signs of folic acid deficiency include diarrhea, anemia, loss of appetite, weight loss, weakness, sore tongue, heart palpitations, and headaches. However, you might not notice any symptoms if you are mildly deficient since it mostly affects your baby’s early embryonic development.