Advertisement

Folic acid: Your best friend during those nine months of pregnancy

folic acid during pregnancy plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells which can prevent birth defects in your newborn’s brain and spinal cord. ©Shutterstock

As Google Doodle pays tribute to haematologist Lucy Wills for the identification of folic acid, we tell you how this vitamin B ensures a healthy pregnancy.

Today (10th May), on the 131st birth anniversary of English haematologist Lucy Wills, Google Doodle honoured her for her contribution in the field of neonatology. She identified a prenatal vitamin, known as folic acid, to keep birth defects at bay. This paved the way for safe deliveries. During her research in 1928, Lucy identified that poor nutrition was one of the main reasons behind anaemia in kids. Her discovery was named 'Wills Factor' in which folic acid was taken out from spinach. Regular consumption of folic acid during pregnancy plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells which can prevent birth defects in your newborn's brain and spinal cord.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is synthetic vitamin B9. It is responsible for the development of your baby's neural tube, a hollow structure inside the brain and spinal cord. It is advised to pregnant expecting moms and women who are planning pregnancy for a healthy gestation. There are plenty of natural sources that you can opt for to get your daily dose of this vitamin: Spinach, chickpeas, peas, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fruits and fruit juices, etc. Its supplements are prescribed to pregnant women.

How much of this vitamin is good for you?

While it is important for you to have folic acid during your gestational period, there are specific guidelines for the intake of this vitamin. While you are trying to conceive and during the first trimester, your daily intake of folic acid should be 400 mcg. For the remaining months, the recommended daily dosage is 600 mcg. However, during breastfeeding you need to bring it down to 500 mcg. Though there are many dietary sources of this vitamin, as mentioned already, it is not possible to get enough of this vitamin from these foods. That is why doctors recommend this vitamin in the form of supplement to pregnant women or while planning to conceive.

Also Read

More News

When should you start consuming folic acid?

Once the portions are sorted, the next question that might pop up in your mid is when you should start consuming this vitamin from? While this can vary depending on your condition, a research conducted at the March of Dimes Foundation found that women who took prenatal vitamins containing folic acid a year before their pregnancy curbed the chances of premature delivery by 50 to 70 per cent. Also, experts in the field are of the opinion that during the 3rd and 4th week of your pregnancy, your baby's brain and spinal cord are forming and hence it is pertinent that you should start consuming folate during that time if you haven't already.

Why should you take this vitamin?

Folic acid could help you ward off various health conditions and protect your baby's health too. It can prevent neural tube effects, autism in kids, miscarriage, low birth weight and premature birth. The March of Dimes Foundation report, already referred to, suggests that pregnant women with low levels of this vitamin are two to three times more vulnerable to give birth to a baby of low birth weight or have a premature delivery as compared to those who had sufficient amount of this vitamin in their body.

If you are deficient of folic acid then your baby with either of the two types of neural defects:

Spina bifidia: It is a condition where the baby's spinal cord or the vertebrae growth is not complete.

Anencephaly: In this condition, major parts of the brain are not fully developed.

It is pertinent to mention here that babies born with anencephaly have a very low survival rate and those born with spina bifidia are born with some type of disability. According to CDC, if you have given birth to a baby with neural tube defect, you can reduce your risk of having another baby with the same problem by up to 70 per cent by taking enough amount of this vitamin before pregnancy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in such cases women should take 4000mcg of folic acid daily. However, your doctor is the best person to suggest an appropriate dosage.

Apart from neural tube defect, folic acid is also believed to play a role in preventing autism, a developmental disorder. A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry, revealed that getting enough of this B vitamin may help you prevent autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in your little one. The study assessed 572 children whose mother took folic acid and diagnosed them for autism. The results showed that they had a 73 per cent lower chance of having ASD as compared to the kids whose mothers did not take folic acid during their gestational period.

Can too much of folic acid affect your baby's health?

Much like every other vitamin, too much of folic acid can have its adverse effect on your body as well you baby's health. In a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology, the researchers revealed that too much of this vitamin intake during pregnancy can up your kid's risk of developing obesity and diabetes as he or she grows up. The study authors gave 20 times extra dosage to female rats while they're mating, in their gestation period and lactation. The babies of these rats grew up to be extremely overweight and showed resistant against insulin. While the study is yet to be carried out on human models, there is enough evidence to suggest that you should not go overboard with your folic acid consumption in order to stay healthy and ensure the health of your baby.

Total Wellness is now just a click away.

Follow us on