Folic Acid Supplements During Pregnancy

According to reports by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), less than half of women who childbearing age are taking folic acid supplements.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid or folate occurs naturally in food. They are forms of Vitamin B9. Folic acid is important in the production and maintenance of new cells. This role is particularly crucial during periods or rapid cell division and growth. This is why folic acid or folate is important during pregnancy and infancy.

Folic Acid and Pregnancy

A woman of childbearing age should make sure she is getting adequate folic acid supplements right before and right after (periconceptional period) she becomes pregnant. Adequate folic acid helps reduce the risks of congenital malformations including neural tube defects. Neural tube defects result in:

  • Spina bifida – incompletely of malformed spinal cord. This condition allows the abnormal portion of the spinal cord to stick out through the opening in the bones.
  • malformation of the skull
  • Anencephaly – occurs when the head end of the neural tube fails to close resulting in the absence of a major portion of the brain, skull, and scalp. Children with this disorder are born without a forebrain. Plus, remaining brain tissue is often exposed.

Taking folic acid supplements coupled with a healthy diet of folate-rich foods before and during the first month after conception greatly reduce the risks of neural tube defects as well as other serious birth defects. Women who are planning on getting pregnant should take 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid daily from fortified foods and/or supplements.

For women who are already pregnant, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 600-800 micrograms. Recent research has also shown that it is also very important for men who are planning to father a child, reducing birth defect risks.