Why folic acid is needed during pregnancy
Almost every woman who plans or is expecting a baby has heard about the need to drink folic acid during pregnancy. This is an important vitamin for the normal development of the embryo, so it is included in the official recommendations for pregnant women of all obstetrician-gynecologists.
Why is folic acid so necessary for the body of a pregnant woman?
We all know how vitamins are good for health, but folic acid plays a special role in this process. This is due to the fact that it is extremely important in early pregnancy for the normal development of the embryo. An additional intake of folic acid can reduce the risks of developing defects in a child by up to 70%.
Folic acid function:
- participates in the development and synthesis of DNA and RNA
- affects the production of red blood cells (prevents anemia)
- affects the development of psychiatric disorders (depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease)
- reduces the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease;
- participates in the formation of the neural tube of the fetus, from which the child’s spinal cord and brain subsequently develop.
In the middle of the 20th century, the effect of folic acid on pregnancy was proved, namely, on the occurrence of serious malformations in the fetus. Subsequent studies have shown that additional intake of this vitamin in early pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of developing pathologies that are little compatible with life or lead to disability.
A lack of folic acid during pregnancy can cause serious illness in the baby. These include:
- CNS defects: hydrocephalus, spinal cleavage, anencephaly
- cardiovascular disease
- mental retardation
- cleft palate and cleft lip
- malformations of the urinary system and more.
The causes of such serious defects in children are not fully understood. A certain role here is played by genetic abnormalities, infections, and the use of certain medications. But folic acid has a greater effect on the formation of the neural tube, the additional intake of which can significantly reduce the risk of fetal malformations. In addition, folic acid during pregnancy is needed to prevent the development of iron deficiency and anemia in a pregnant woman, premature birth, the birth of a child with a low weight.
How to take folic acid during pregnancy
During pregnancy, it is important to adhere to healthy principles of nutrition and follow the recommendations of a doctor. Modern science does not see the benefit of taking multivitamin complexes for pregnant women if they have the ability to eat varied.
However, this does not apply to folic acid. This drug is recommended to be taken three months before conception and in the first three months of pregnancy. In some countries, folic acid enrichment of food products is carried out, but even this does not help to reduce the number of malformations as effectively as an additional intake of this vitamin in the form of a dietary supplement.
It is very important to take folic acid in a continuous manner before conception and in the first weeks of pregnancy. This is due to the fact that it is up to 12 weeks of pregnancy that all important organs of the embryo develop, including its nervous system.
Why is it important to start taking folic acid before pregnancy? The fact is that this vitamin takes time to reach the desired level of content in the body. Therefore, obstetrician-gynecologists recommend starting taking folic acid with the beginning of pregnancy planning.
What is the time to take folic acid
- three months before conception
- first 12 weeks of pregnancy
You should also not overdo it with taking folic acid in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, since it no longer plays such a key role in the formation of the fetus.
In any case, it is better to consult your doctor for the correct dose and recommendations. It is also not necessary to combine the intake of multivitamin preparations and folic acid separately, since the latter is already in the composition of vitamin complexes for pregnant women.
Too high doses of folic acid can aggravate the unpleasant symptoms of the early months of pregnancy and cause a number of side effects.
Symptoms of an overdose of folic acid:
- decreased appetite
- allergic reaction, cramps
- bloating, abdominal pain
- In this case, the prescribed dose of folic acid should be reviewed.
Folic acid can also be found in foods, mainly fruits and vegetables. However, it is not very much contained there, so even proper nutrition does not cancel the additional intake of vitamin B9 for those who are planning or expecting a baby.
What foods contain folic acid?
- Most folic acid is found in cabbage, avocado, green onions, spinach, lentils, broccoli (all dark green vegetables) and liver (beef and chicken).
- Vitamin B9 is also found in cottage cheese, cheese, nuts, legumes, citrus fruits, buckwheat, tomatoes, beets, carrots, dates, sprouted wheat.
When preparing products, one must also take into account that folic acid is rapidly destroyed under the influence of high temperatures. The best option (for example, with vegetables) is to eat them raw.