The Essential Pregnancy Vitamin

Folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B-9, is part of a group of B vitamins that assist the body with creating red blood cells and turning food into energy. Folic acid is often promoted to pregnant women as an essential prenatal nutrient. Research shows that folic acid can reduce the development of certain birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly in fetuses. Doctors encourage pregnant women and women trying to conceive to take folic acid supplements and eat folate-rich foods.


Folate and folic acid

Essential vitamins and minerals help the body function and perform necessary tasks by providing nutrients to the cells and organs. Humans absorb these nutrients by eating different foods. Folate can be found in dark leafy green vegetables, eggs, oranges, bananas, lemons, beans, nuts, and whole grains. Fortified foods like bread, pasta, and cereal contain the synthetic form of folate, known as folic acid. Multivitamins and prenatal supplements can also contain folic acid. These supplements are available over-the-counter (OTC) at local pharmacies and supermarkets.

The power of folic acid

When folic acid is taken for at least 1 month before conception, the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect (NTD) is significantly decreased. Folate is also vital to the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) production process and assists with protein metabolism. Folate contains a special carbon group that methylates DNA. Folic acid’s involvement with the DNA and RNA process is another reason why the vitamin is crucial to fetal development. Pregnant women can also suffer from disorders like anemia if the body’s folate levels are low.

Recommended dose

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of folic acid for women planning a pregnancy is 400mcg each day. During pregnancy, at least 600mcg of folic acid is recommended. Women who are taking certain medications or individuals who have had a pregnancy previously affected by an NTD may need high amounts. This RDA can usually be met by taking a prenatal vitamin and eating a healthy and varied diet.

A healthier pregnancy

Sufficient amounts of folic acid can prevent birth defects and keep women healthy during pregnancy. Taking a prenatal vitamin and eating a healthy diet prior to conception is the best way to ensure that folate builds up in the body and can benefit the developing baby fully. Consistently taking this essential B vitamin can make a big difference for women of reproductive age.