If you are planning a child, are capable of becoming pregnant, or are pregnant, then it is very important for you to have enough folic acid. Folic acid can prevent the occurrence of NTDs (neural tube defects), serious birth defects relating to the brain (like anencephaly) and relating to the spinal cord (like spina bifida). Neural tube defects affect about 3,000 pregnancies each year in the US.
NTDs occurs at the primary stages of development, in most cases even before a woman knows she is pregnant, and this is the reason why a daily dosage of folic acid supplement is recommended even before you are pregnant, or so to say even before you plan to conceive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention those women who start taking the suggested folic acid dose every day, at least one month before they conceive and until the first trimester of their pregnancy greatly reduce the risk of NTDs (by about 70%).
As per certain researches, if you take a daily dose of folic acid it will also help lower the chances of other birth defects like cleft palate, cleft lip, and also various kinds of heart defects. It can also reduce the chances of preeclampsia, which is a serious blood pressure problem that about 5 percent pregnant women suffer from.
Folic acid has other benefits to offer. It helps your body in creating normal blood cells and also helps prevent the occurrence of anemia. It further helps in production, functioning, and repair of DNA. By making sure your body gets enough folic acid you will help in the proper cell growth of the placenta and also of your developing baby.
How much folic acid should you take?
The daily supplement of folic acid recommended to prevent birth defects is 400 mcg, starting at least 1 month before you try to conceive. Since most pregnancies in the US and elsewhere are not planned, most experts strongly suggest that every woman capable of being pregnant should make it a habit of taking 400 mcg of folic acid every single day.
Certain groups, including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, recommend increasing your intake of folic acid to a minimum of 600 mcg once you have conceived. If you are taking a multivitamin make sure to read its label really well. If, however, you are not taking any multivitamin then you can take folic acid separately. But make sure not to take more than 1 multivitamin a day.
If you have been prescribed any prenatal vitamins they perhaps include 800-1000 mcg of folic acid. You can check the label to learn about the same. However, make sure you do not take more than 1,000 mcg folic acid a day unless you have been suggested so by your healthcare practitioner. Vegans, in this case, need to be all the more careful because there are high chances of them being vitamin B12 deficient, and if they take too much folic acid, diagnosing the deficiency will become very difficult.
Folic acid supplements are absolutely essential for the good health of your baby. Though you have been recommended the ideal amount here, but it will be best to take suggestions from your doctor since it concerns the health of your baby.