Every pregnant woman wants her baby to be born healthy and that entails including the right supplements in the diet. Also known as folate, folic acid is one of the most important vitamins that are taken during pregnancy. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a regular intake of folic acid can inhibit the birth defects of the brain and the spinal cord which are also known as neural tube defects or NTDs.
After the birth of the baby, the NTDs manifest themselves as severe form of birth defects such as spina bifida or open spine, which is one of the primary causes of childhood paralysis. Moreover an absence of folic acid in the diet can trigger off anencephaly which causes brain and skull underdevelopment.
The other complications that can be avoided with the regular intake of this B vitamin include miscarriages, limb defects, heart defects, cleft lip, cleft palate and placental abruption during pregnancy. Research has also shown that preeclampsia can be avoided when a pregnant woman gets her regular dose of folic acid. It aids in the rapid growth of the baby as it allows cell division and allows DNA production as well.
Folic acid is available in both synthetic and natural forms. There are a number of foods such as cereals, chickpeas, chicken, beans, oatmeal and green vegetables like broccoli that are fortified with folate, the natural version of folic acid. However the natural folates may not be as easily absorbed by the body, making it imperative for a pregnant woman to have the synthetic form of folic acid in the form of pills and other vitamin supplements on a daily basis.
It is important to remember that prenatal vitamins are not an alternative for healthy foods containing folic acid which are equally essential for the body. Breakfast cereals, breads, pastas and other grain products are excellent source of folic acid. In addition brussel sprouts, orange juice, asparagus, lima beans and avocados are also good folic acid food sources.
One of the most common questions asked by pregnant women is how much folic acid do they need? Doctors recommend the daily intake of folic acid even before pregnancy. While pre- pregnancy folic acid dosage is around 400 micrograms, this can be increased to 600 mcg once the pregnancy is detected. In fact most prenatal vitamins contain around 800-1000 mcg of folic acid. For women whose babies have a high risk of contacting NTDs, or for those who are suffering from diabetes or coelic disease, a much higher dosage of folic acid is recommended.