Nothing can come even closer to the joy of motherhood for an expecting mother. All other notable events in life seem trivial when compared to this. It is necessary for the expecting mother to take good care of herself and the unborn baby through proper diet, physical activity and proper medical advice during this period. One of the things that doctor and other experts prescribe having foods / medicines which provide good and adequate quantities of folic acid.
Folic acid (Vitamin B9) is an essential element that an expecting mother should have during pregnancy. There are several reasons why this component is needed.
Folic acid plays a significant role in the functioning, repair and development of DNA, the building block of cells and the carrier of our genetic information. This should be a good reason enough for taking adequate quantities of folic acid. Having adequate quantities will aid in cell growth at a significant pace for the unborn child. Folic acid also aids in the normal growth and development of red blood cells and thereby prevents occurrence of anaemia. Combining Folic acid with certain multivitamins helps prevention of complex inadequacies like preeclampsia which causes risks to the health of the expecting mother and the unborn child.
Folic acid plays a very significant role in the prevention of conditions like anencephaly (brain defects caused at birth) , spina bifida which is essential defects in the spinal cord of the baby. Both of them are classified as Neural tube defects. These defects arise at very early stages of the baby’s development inside the mother’s womb. According to statistics published in the United States nearly 3000 pregnancies are impacted every year with the above conditions. The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women should start taking the recommended daily dose of folic acid at least a month before they conceive. This activity in itself will prevent help reducing the risk of such conditions by about 50 to 70 percent.
According to new researches, folic acid also helps in reducing the risk of baby’s developing other defects like cleft palate, heart ailments, cleft lip etc.
It is recommended by various agencies that women of child bearing age should take a multivitamin having folic acid or a folic acid supplement every day.
Recommended doses of Folic acid
The generic agreed daily dose of folic acid is 400 micrograms per day. This quantity should be taken every day by the would be mother from at least month before she tries to get pregnant. In countries like the US where almost half of the pregnancies are not planned, agencies recommend all women of child bearing age to starting taking folic acid 400 micrograms per day. Some agencies in US even suggest that the quantity should be 600 micrograms and not 400. So it is very essential for expecting and would be mothers to check the quantity in their medicine labels so that they can be sure that they are taking adequate quantities of folic acid.
However it is recommended that the quantity of folic acid per day should not exceed more than 1000 micrograms.
Cases where extra doses of Folic acid is needed
Obese women carry more chance of giving birth to babies with neural tube defects. So for women who are overweight, it is recommended that they visit their doctor before planning to have a child. There is a fair chance that they might recommend taking folic acid more than 400 micrograms per day.
Women who have a history of giving birth to babies with neural tube deficiency should visit their doctor before planning to conceive. This is a very important fact and it should be brought to the notice of the doctor. According to studies, there is a 2 to 5 percent chance that they might again give birth to a child with Neural tube disorder. Such cases may need consumption of folic acid in excess of the recommended daily dosage.
For women who have diabetes or are taking anti-seizure medicines, it is absolutely necessary for them to visit their doctor at least a month before they try to conceive. They do have a fair chance of conceiving a baby with Neural tube deficiencies. The visit is necessary for determining the exact dosage of folic acid for tackling such conditions.
Signals of folic acid deficiency
Some common symptoms of deficiency are as follows:
- Appetite loss
- Loss of weight
- Sore tongue
- Palpitations of the heart
- General irritability
However most of the symptoms are very subtle and in cases where the deficiency is mild, one may not at all catch these symptoms.
Women who are diabetic or are taking certain anti-seizure medications are also more likely to have a baby with an NTD. If either of these situations applies to you, see your provider at least a month before trying to conceive to find out how much folic acid you should be taking and to monitor your condition in general.
Foods which provide folic acid
Some common sources of folic acid are as follows:
- Peas and dried beans
- Vegetables like broccoli , spinach , okra , turnips , asparagus
- Citrus fruits and juices
These food sources can act as a complement to the folic acid supplement and should be taken keeping that sentiment in mind.