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Pregnant? Don't miss out on folic acid

Here is why you should include folate into your diet.

Written by Sonali Shivlani |Updated : January 19, 2015 6:49 PM IST

The importance of having folic acid during pregnancy cannot be stressed enough. This is one supplement that every pregnant woman is asked to take diligently during pregnancy. Folic acid does a great deal of good to both mother and baby alike. Lack of it in the diet can lead to various deficiencies in the baby and other complications related to growth and development. Folic acid is part of the B group of vitamins specifically, B9. It occurs naturally in our body, and the natural form of it is called folate. However, during pregnancy the requirement of folate increases and hence one needs to depend on folic acid supplements and other foods rich in folate. Here are 10 superfoods every pregnant woman should have.

Here, all your question on folic acid and its importance are answered by Sonali Shivlani, internationally certified lactation and prenatal counsellor.

Why folic acid is so important for you during pregnancy

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It aids growth and development of baby: During pregnancy your baby needs the right nutrition in the right amount. Deficiency of folate in the diet could lead to several complications in the mother and hamper the process of growth and development of the fetus. Folate is important during preconception and early pregnancy phase because this is when the fetus develops spine and nerve cells. Deficiency can lead to neural tube defects or malformation of the spine in the developing baby known as spina bifida it has a life-long impact on the child. Since many times a woman may not realise that she is pregnant, all women who are of the child bearing age or are planning a baby are advised to take folic acid supplements. Here are seven essentials every pregnant woman should have in her diet.

Reduces risk of gestational anemia: Folate helps in production of blood cells in the mother thus boosting blood circulation and reducing the chances of gestational anemia. Increased level of hemoglobin in the blood would help more nutrition and oxygen to reach the fetus. This helps in reducing the chances of IUGR or intrauterine growth retardation in the baby. The right amount of folate also helps to combat pregnancy-induced fatigue and tiredness. Here are six other causes of gestational anemia you ought to know.

How much folic acid do you need

How much is too much: Ideally, folate supplements should be taken along with B12 supplements for optimum absorption, and to prevent any nerve damage a common side effect of B12 deficiency. That being said, do not try to self-medicate, it is best to take the supplement under guidance of a doctor or a certified nutritionist , since the doses have to be tailor-made for you. For example : The dose for pregnant mums is much higher than that of a normal adult. In comparison, for adults over 50 years of age, a lower dose may be recommended. Here are seven other things that you need to stay away from during pregnancy.

Ill-effects of folate overdose: The positive effects of taking the supplement far outweigh the ill-effects, even so, there are a few things that everybody should know. As mentioned above, if folate is not taken with complementary supplements, it can lead to nerve damage. Other possible symptoms are a drop in blood sugar, sleep problems, skin reactions and seizures. These symptoms are only seen with an intake of very high doses, since folic acid is a water soluble vitamin and gets washed out of the system without being stored in the body. Thereby reducing the chances of toxicity.

When to stop: Pregnant mums can stop as per the doctor's recommendation. Some physicians discontinue it once the mother has completed twelve weeks of pregnancy, while some prefer to keep the supplement going for the full term of pregnancy.

Sources of folic acid

Apart from having folic acid supplements you can also try the natural sources of folate and eat more green leafy vegetables, dried herbs, sunflower seeds, peanuts, bean sprouts, beans, soybean and liver, that are great sources of natural folate. That being said, one would need a nutritionist s help to determine the amount and method of eating these vegetables to get the amount of folate required. Since pregnancy is such a crucial time for both the mother and the baby, it is best not to take a risk and use supplements with your doctor s advice.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of anemia.

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