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The 4-1-1 on Folic Acid

Folic acid is a power nutrient women should take – especially if they are planning a pregnancy. Folic acid is a form of vitamin B9. It’s found in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, breads, and cereals. It can also be taken in supplement form, which is more quickly absorbed by the body. Everyone can benefit from taking folic acid as it helps produce healthy red blood cells, lowering the likelihood of anemia development. It also helps the body break down and create new proteins, the building blocks of our bodies’ cells.

Due to folic acid’s critical contribution to DNA development, tissue formation and cell growth, it is especially beneficial during pregnancy in helping the body prepare to create new life and sustain itself at the same time.  Folic acid also contributes to the formation of the baby’s heart and circulatory systems. Additionally, folic acid helps to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs are birth defects of the spinal cord and brain. Taking folic acid in a prenatal vitamin or supplement can significantly lower the risk of NTDs developing.

A practical advantage of folic acid is that it is inexpensive and easy to obtain over the counter. The recommended daily dose for a normal, low-risk pregnancy is 400 micrograms (mcg). Since folic acid is water-soluble, it doesn’t get stored in the body. Instead, it gets eliminated from your body through your urine. To avoid deficiencies, folic acid should be taken on a daily basis.

From the first moment of conception, important cell development is occurring in your unborn baby, so it is vitally important to start taking a folic acid supplement when you start planning your pregnancy. Most birth defects develop in the first few weeks of pregnancy, so it is especially important to start taking folic acid as early as possible.

There are certain conditions that may require some women to take a higher dose of folic acid, such as, type 1, 2 or gestational diabetes, celiac disease or a history of neural tube defects (NTDs). A doctor will advise the right dosage amount for you.

Overall, taking folic acid supplements is an ideal way to ensure your newborn’s development is healthy while making you more comfortable and less stressed during your pregnancy.

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