The importance of folic acid during pregnancy
During pregnancy, folic acid plays a crucial role in the healthy development of the unborn child. It is a B vitamin compound that is essential for cell growth and division.
Why is folic acid important?
The body needs folic acid to produce DNA and form cells. In the first few weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's organs are being formed, folic acid is particularly important as it contributes to the development of the neural tube. The neural tube makes up the baby's spinal cord and brain.
What are the effects of a folic acid deficiency?
A lack of folic acid during pregnancy can have serious consequences. It increases the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, in which the spinal cord does not close properly. Other developmental disorders of the brain and spinal cord can also occur.
How much folic acid should be taken?
It is recommended that women start taking folic acid before they become pregnant. The recommended daily dose is 400 micrograms (µg). During pregnancy, the need for folic acid can be increased to 600 micrograms (µg). It is important to follow these recommendations to prevent possible deficiency symptoms.
Sources of folic acid
Folic acid can be ingested through diet. Good sources of folate include green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, legumes like beans and lentils, and oranges and other citrus fruits. However, it can be difficult to get enough folic acid from diet alone. Therefore, it is recommended to take folic acid supplements in addition to a healthy diet.
It is important to discuss taking folic acid with a doctor or midwife to ensure the correct dosage is being used.