Why is folic acid important for pregnant women?
You've probably heard that folic acid is essential for pregnant mothers. But why is folic acid important, and what does it do for pregnant moms?
When you're pregnant (or in some cases, trying to conceive) it is often advised to take folic acid. But do you ever wonder why so?
What does folic acid do?
Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9, which is also known as folate. Folic acid doesn't occur naturally, that's pregnant moms will need to take folic acid supplements or food that has been rich in it.
The main benefit of folic acid is that it helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) which are birth defects that are related to the spinal cord. The neural tube is the part of the embryo wherein a baby's spine and brain develops.
And because NTDs also happen during early stages of pregnancy, women are advised to take these even before getting pregnant.
Research also suggests that aside from NTDs, it can also lower the risk of cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain types of heart defects, as well as lower the risk of preeclampsia for pregnant women.
How much folic acid do moms need?
For moms who are trying to conceive, about 400 mcg of folic acid daily is recommended by most doctors, at least a month before conception.
During pregnancy, about 600 mcg is generally recommended. Thankfully, there are a lot of multivitamins that have that have this form of folate as an ingredient. You can also buy supplements containing this vitamin at most drugstores.
Prenatal vitamins also contain this as well as a number of vitamins and minerals that moms need that are also beneficial for the baby.
Surprisingly, your body readily absorbs folic acid better than folate, which is the natural form of the vitamin. What this means is that taking supplements would be better than getting folate from natural sources. However, folate is also essential for pregnant moms, so make sure to eat foods that are rich in folates. These include lentils, dried beans, nuts, avocado, and dark green vegetables.
As always, regular checkups and consultation with your doctor are important. This is to ensure that you're providing your baby with all the nutrients that they need during your pregnancy.