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Folic Acid in Prenatals: Should I Take It?

Folic Acid in Prenatals Should I Take It?

You should take folic acid before and during pregnancy, as the neural tube closes in the first 28 days.

It helps prevent serious brain and spine congenital disabilities in the child, also known as neural tube defects (NTDs).

Adding folic acid to your prenatal care significantly lowers the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and anemia, mommies! 

It’s a simple yet powerful prenatal vitamin that can promote a healthier pregnancy journey for you and your baby.

Is Folic Acid in Prenatals Important?

Is Folic Acid in Prenatals Important?

Folic acid is one of the best prenatal vitamins for pregnant women.

As a mother of two amazing kids, I understand the significance of folic acid in pregnancy and preconception care. 

Folic acid is a vitamin that supports the formation and development of babies’ brains and spines by aiding in the formation of the neural tube.

Folic acid helps form the neural tube, which later becomes the baby’s brain and spine.

You can have it as a supplement or through fortified foods like cereals, bread, and pasta. It’s a tasty way to ensure you get the goodness of folic acid to support a healthy pregnancy.

NOTE: Your doctor may advise taking methylfolate, which is a more potent form of folic acid.

Is Folic Acid During Pregnancy Also Important?

If you don’t take prenatals like folic acid, your nutritional deficiencies may cause birth defects. Taking folic acid during pregnancy can help prevent serious congenital disabilities. 

Some examples of neural tube defects (NTDs) are spina bifida and anencephaly. 

Spina bifida occurs when the spine doesn’t close properly. On the other hand, anencephaly occurs when the brain and skull don’t develop properly.

Babies with anencephaly will die shortly, after birth while spina bifida can cause lifelong disabilities.

The good news is that folic acid can help prevent these defects. 

Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps the body build DNA and close the neural tube. The neural tube is the foundation for your baby’s future nervous system.

When Should I Start Taking Folic Acid?

Now that you know why you should take folic acid, the next step is learning when to start taking it.

If you’re planning to conceive, the best time to take folic acid supplements is at least one month before pregnancy. 

Folic acid takes time to build up in the body, so this early intake ensures that the body has enough folate stores to support early embryonic development. 

Nonetheless, it’s never too late to start taking folic acid if you discover your pregnancy later. The CDC also suggests that all women should take folic acid daily, even when they’re not planning to get pregnant.

What are the Benefits of Taking Folic Acid?

What are the Benefits of Taking Folic Acid?

Folate benefits both mother and baby during pregnancy. 

Beyond preventing NTDs, it can also:

  • Support the development of the placenta
  • Help in DNA synthesis and cell division, crucial for the baby’s rapid growth
  • Reduce the risk of premature birth
  • Reduce the risk of low birth weight
  • Improve cognitive development in babies
  • Reduce the risk of anemia in pregnant women
  • Improve mood and reduce the risk of depression

Therefore, if you are pregnant or planning to be, take folic acid. You can get raise your intake through a supplement or certain folic acid foods.

As circumstances among women vary, if you consider taking folic acid, I suggest talking to your doctor first. Though it is good for your baby, it would be prudent to learn the side effects from taking folic acid.

How Much Folic Acid Will I Need Before and During Pregnancy?

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) recommends that women get 400 mcg of folic acid every day before and during pregnancy. 

However, some women may need more folic acid. 

Even if you eat a healthy diet, getting enough folic acid from food alone during pregnancy can be difficult. 

For example, moms who have had a baby with an NTD or who have certain genetic conditions may need to take a higher dose of folic acid. The RDI (recommended daily intake) of folic acid for pregnant women is 600 mcg daily.

TIP: If you’re wondering, “How long do I need to take folic acid?” I recommend consuming prenatal vitamins throughout your whole pregnancy!

Where Can I Find Sources of Folic Acid?

Where Can I Find Sources of Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a synthetic B vitamin called folate, essential for optimal health, especially during pregnancy. 

Sources of folic acid include supplements, fortified foods, and natural food sources.

Here’s how you get familiar with them:

  • Prenatal Supplements – These vitamins and minerals are formulated for pregnant women. They contain folic acid, iron, calcium, and other nutrients.
  • Folic Acid Supplements – Standalone folic acid supplements can be purchased over the counter in tablet or capsule form.
  • Fortified Food – Look for folic acid in grain-based products like bread, cereal, pasta, and rice.
  • Natural Food Sources – You get them from green leafy (spinach, kale), citrus (oranges, grapefruits), legumes (beans, lentils), and liver. 

Still, remember to schedule a quick consultation with your doctor before taking any supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m a mom of two and have always been passionate about helping other moms care for their health during pregnancy.

I also find it equally important to answer these FAQs, which may be lingering in your mind.

Is It Possible to Get Enough Folic Acid From Food Alone?

Getting enough folic acid from food alone is possible, but it cannot be easy. 

Obtaining folic acid from food sources alone can generally be enough for a normal adult’s vitamin requirement. 

Folic acid supplementation may be prescribed in some situations, such as during pregnancy. This is to ensure you have adequate folate levels.

But how much is enough? Doctors will specifically know about this by conducting a serum folate test. Nonetheless, a study found that moms who took folic acid supplements daily had a lower risk of preterm birth.

Can I Get Folate From Foods?

Yes. Folate, a B vitamin, is naturally found in many foods.

However, the amount of folate that you can get in food can vary. Regardless, I suggest you take note of these natural sources.

  • Dark leafy green vegetables – Spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts. 
  • Citrus fruits – Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes.
  • Legumes – Beans, lentils, and peas.
  • Fortified cereals – Cereals are fortified with folic acid.
  • Whole grains – Bread, pasta, and rice.

Remember, while folate-rich foods are beneficial, obtaining sufficient amounts of folic acid can be challenging solely through these diets alone, especially during pregnancy. 

Fortunately, folic acid is a common ingredient in prenatal vitamins, so you can meet your RDI along with the other benefits of a prenatal vitamin!

Conclusion

Folate is a key nutrient for preventing NTDs.

It also supports healthy fetal development and reduces certain complications during pregnancy. 

As proven and tested by many moms, incorporating folic acid into your daily routine can help you meet the recommended daily intake.

For specific concerns about your folic acid intake, consult your doctor. They can order a blood test to check your folate level and recommend the best action.

Nayna Llenos
Nayna Llenos

Hi, I’m Nayna!
I’ve always wanted to be a mother, and I’m lucky and blessed to have two wonderful children to care for and love.
Despite this blessing, there are times wherein I do wonder if I truly am the mother my children need. Am I giving them the right food, care, and discipline to them?
But that is the beauty of parenting — you grow along with your children as they flourish to be their wonderful selves!
I wish to share my experiences with motherhood and how these tips can help you in your parenting journey.
I hope my advices and experiences will prove useful to you and that you have a smooth and wonderful journey as a mother!