Why you should take folic acid when you’re pregnant

Posted on: January 11th, 2012 by sdavis

Supplementing with folic acid during pregnancy will help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

This month is National Birth Defects Prevention Month and in observance of this awareness month, I wanted to educate you about the importance of folic acid in the prevention of neural tube defects (NTDs). As many of you know, observational studies have shown that pre- and peri-conceptional folic acid supplementation was associated with a decreased incidence of neural tube defect babies. Based on the results from these observational studies, it has been assumed that 0.4 mg/day of folic acid is sufficient to prevent NTDs. In 1992, the United States Public Health Service recommended that “All women of childbearing age in the United States who are capable of becoming pregnant should consume 0.4 mg of folic acid per day for the purpose of reducing their risk of having a pregnancy affected with spina bifida or other NTDs.” If a woman has previously had a pregnancy resulting in a NTD, higher doses may be recommended.

Despite widespread publicity regarding the importance of folic acid supplementation, a survey conducted in the 1990s revealed that less than 1/3 of women of childbearing age take a supplement that provides 400 mcg/day of folic acid. This finding is responsible for the mandatory fortification of grains in the US and Canada that was implemented in 1998. Since then, the average intake of folic acid has increased and the incidence of NTDs has declined by 19% in the US.

Women, whose pregnancies benefit from folic acid supplementation, are generally not folate-deficient. Instead, they appear to have a higher-than-normal requirement for folate. This increased requirement may be explained by a genetic variation of the gene that codes for a folate dependent enzyme, as well as the presence of an antibody that blocks the cellular uptake of folate.

Good food sources of folate include leafy green vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits, beets, whole grains and fortified refined grains. When folic acid supplements are needed, Advance Health carries high grade folic acid supplements for a healthy pregnancy.

In good health,
Lucinda

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