What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a B vitamin artificially made by a human called folate. Folic acid is essential during pregnancy because it is considered the most critical baby-making nutrients. Folate is very significant in making red blood cells, and it helps develop the baby’s neural tube in the brain and spinal cord. Fortified cereals can be consumed during pregnancy as it is the best food source of folic acid. Folic acid is found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.
WHAT TIME IS RIGHT TO START TAKING FOLIC ACID?
Folic acid should be consumed during the initial pregnancy period. It is essential to take folate in the initial period because congenital disabilities occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. It is necessary to have folate in the mother’s system during the early stage because the baby’s brain and spinal cord are developing.
Folic acid can be taken a month before the pregnancy, but it should be consumed with the physician’s recommendation.
Why is folic acid essential during pregnancy?
Folic acid helps the embryonic neural tube to the baby’s brain and spinal cord to close correctly during the initial weeks of pregnancy. It also helps in the formation of the baby’s heart and circulatory system. It also helps to lower the chances of congenital disabilities in the baby.
Because folic acid is water-soluble, so the body is not able to store an excess amount. So, it gets passed through the urine, and that is why you need to incorporate regularly enough folic acid into the diet to avoid a deficiency while being pregnant. Most congenital disabilities develop in the first few weeks of pregnancy; it is crucial to get enough folic acid as soon as possible.
Folate is important because it performs various functions in the body. It helps the body healthy by making new red blood cells. Red blood cell supplies oxygen in each part of the body. If the person fails to develop enough red blood cells, they can suffer from anemia, leading to fatigue, weakness, and a pale complexion. Without sufficient folate, a person can also suffer from anemia, known as folate deficiency anemia. Folate is essential for the synthesis and repair of DNA and different genetic material, and it is vital for cell division. It is crucial to consume folate during pregnancy as folate deficiency can cause neural tube irregularities, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
Following are the conditions in which folic acid is beneficial:
Neural tube irregularities
Consuming folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy can help to stop neural tube irregularities in the fetus.
It also helps to minimize the risk related to preterm birth, heart irregularities, and cleft palate.
Women who have a lower level of folate are likely to suffer from depression. It is recommended to consume folic acid supplements so that it helps to make depression medications more effective.
It refers to a severe developmental disorder that undermines the capability to communicate and interact. This disorder adversely affects the nervous system and impacts an individual’s entire cognitive, emotional, social, and physical health.
Researchers have found that consuming folic acid before and during the initial weeks of pregnancy can reduce the possibility that the baby will have autism.
Consuming folic acid can help to prevent this problem. Doctors might utilize folic acid to support a methotrexate prescription for rheumatoid arthritis.
Methotrexate is a valuable medication for this condition, but there are chances that it might remove folate from the body, causing gastrointestinal symptoms. Folic acid supplements help to reduce these side effects.
SIDE EFFECTS OF FOLIC ACID
It is found that there are no severe side effects that are related to taking enough folic acid. In rare cases, if folic acid doesn’t suit, then people may face an upset stomach.
If the quantity of folic acid consumed by a person is more than was necessary, then there is nothing to worry about. As folic acid is water-soluble, if any excess quantity is consumed, it will pass naturally through urine.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FOLIC ACID?
There are vast benefits of folic acid. Researches have revealed that when the nutrient is started in the months before pregnancy, it has significant health benefits for the women expecting and their babies. These include reducing the risk of:
- Miscarriage – Researches have revealed that some women face problems in getting pregnant of the deficiency of folic acid.
- Neural tube defects- Some congenital disabilities are linked to insufficient folic acid, which are spina bifida, a spinal malformation, anencephaly, a type of brain damage.
- Congenital heart defects –
- Gestational diabetes – It is a type of pregnancy-related diabetes that can at times be cured with dietary changes, exercise, and close monitoring.
- Preterm labor – A diet containing abundant folic acid can help prevent delivery before 37 weeks.
- Cleft lip palate – In this problem, the lip has an opening and does not form correctly. Folic acid can help to prevent this mouth defect.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START TAKING A PRENATAL VITAMIN WITH FOLIC ACID?
Sometimes pregnancies are unplanned. Even if you are not planning to become pregnant, you should start taking prenatal vitamins containing folic acid.
There are chances that if you don’t take prenatal vitamins and you get pregnant, which was not planned, it can lead to some congenital disabilities related to the brain and spine, in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
HOW MUCH FOLIC ACID SHOULD BE TAKEN DURING PREGNANCY?
A woman should consume a supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid per day from 12 weeks before getting through to the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is imperative to take folic acid with the recommendations of the doctor.
It is vital to eat healthy food containing folate that includes green leafy vegetables, broccoli, oranges, avocado, or fortified loaves of bread and cereals. You can consult a dietitian before taking any diet or any supplements.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS INVOLVED IN TAKING FOLIC ACID?
Folic acid should be taken in appropriate doses. But if anyone consumes too much folic acid, the body gets rid of any excess in the urine. Some people might experience some minor side effects by consuming folic acid supplement such as:
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep pattern disturbance
Some people face allergic reactions if they consume folic acid. Following are the signs that might be met by consuming folic acid:
- Skin rash
- Difficulty breathing
HOW TO GET FOLIC ACID?
The natural form of folic acid is food. Some foods that are rich in folate include the following:
- Black-eyed peas
- Orange juice
- Brussels sprouts
Fortified cereals such as breakfast cereal and oatmeal contain a vast amount of folic acid. It is possible to take enough folic acid from the diet, but each and everything should be consumed with the doctor’s consultation.
Antara Chowdhury is a Content Marketer and Strategist with 6 years of experience. She is Master degree holder in Journalism and wants to explore everything she can write on.