Updated: 2019, Jun 12

Is Folate Necessary To Be Consumed During Pregnancy?

By - Reviewed by CHD Team
Consume Folate During Pregnancy

You’ve taken the test and those pink lines appeared!! Surely, you are filled with joy and anticipation about your pregnancy journey and the opportunity to welcome a new life.

That newborn smell, those big sparkling eyes and tiny hands and feet; What is more miraculous than a brand new baby?!

Many women do not begin taking prenatal supplements until they have a confirmed pregnancy, but should you wait? Some don’t have the luxury to “plan a pregnancy”, but let’s suppose you are “trying” to make a baby, where do you start to ensure you have the best chance at having a healthy baby?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “by taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day for at least one month before you conceive and during your first trimester, you can cut your chances of having a baby with neural-tube defects such as spina bifida by 50 to 70 percent.”

Let’s start by talking about Folate or Vitamin B9. This nutrient is essential for DNA replication. The higher the amount of Folate in the Mother’s system the more likely there will not be complications with the replicating process.

Thus, lowering your risk for birth defects. Folic acid acts by helping the body produce and maintain new cells.

During the DNA process enzymatic reactions happen between the vitamin metabolism and amino acid synthesis. Folate facilitates in the growth and development of the fetus and studies have shown that a lack of the supplement results in abnormalities for both the mother and the growing fetus.

A deficiency of folic acid interferes with metabolic processes, causing problems in the body. Women with inadequate folic acid intake are more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies (less than 5 1/2 pounds).

Other complications can be prematurity or infants with neural tube defects (NTDs), which may involve the brain, spinal cord, meninges (membranes) and skull.

This article will discuss the importance of introducing Folic acid while pregnant and other key tips to ensure a healthy and happy pregnancy.

What Is Folate Or Folic Acid?

The term folate is a generic name for the chemical compound Folic acid. Folic acid is also known as vitamin B-9, a water-soluble vitamin necessary for normal metabolism. Metabolism describes how chemicals are changed in the body.

This essential vitamin cannot be synthesized by the body and must be introduced by either supplements or choice of diet. Folate, the natural form of vitamin B9 is bioavailable in a variety of animal and plant foods.

Folic acid, on the other hand, is primarily found in fortified foods and supplements and helps the chemical reactions of metabolism in the body to take place.

How Can I Introduce Folic Acid Into My Daily Diet?

My Daily Diet

By eating foods that contain the naturally occurring nutrient you enable your body to build a supply of the needed vitamins.

1. Leafy Greens

By adding one large plate of leafy greens you will fulfill nearly all of your daily folate requirements. Collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce and spinach are great sources.

2. Citrus Fruits

Oranges rank the highest in terms of folic acid in fruits. Some other folate-rich fruits include grapefruits, grapes, cantaloupe, strawberries and bananas.

3. Legumes

Just a small bowl will provide your daily folate needs. Some legume includes: green peas, kidney beans, pinto beans and black-eyed peas.

4. Seeds & Nuts

Nuts are high in folic acid, especially almonds and peanuts, as well as, a variety of seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and flax.

5. Egg Yolks

A single egg yolk has 25 micrograms of folate.

6. Grain-Based Products

Bread, cereal, flour, cornmeal, pasta, rice, and other grain products are all fortified with folic acid.

Another way to increase your body’s folate levels is by taking the pharmaceutical vitamin B9. The micronutrient form of folate is found in two forms Folinic acid (5-formyl tetrahydrofolate) and 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF).

Folinic acid is a metabolically active form of folate and precursor to 5-MTHF. For Folic acid to metabolize within the body it goes through several processes.

Folic acid supplements are inexpensive, readily available without a prescription, and are considered safe. Before taking any type of supplement, future mothers need to consult their physician.

How Much Folate Is Needed?

According to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Institute of Medicine (IOM), it is recommended that pregnant women take 600 mg of Folic acid supplements daily and to continue to do so after the birth of the child during breastfeeding.

Additional Benefits Of Folic Acid

Preventing Congenital Heart Disease

It has been well documented that increases of Folate prior to and throughout the pregnancy have resulted in fewer abnormalities. The beneficial effects can even be seen in preventing congenital heart disease and oral clefts.

A large study showed that women who consumed more folic acid had a significantly reduced risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) and encourages normal cholesterol levels.

Read More: 33 Weeks Pregnant: What You Must Know

Within the body, folate is an activator and evidence has shown it has a positive action on cardiovascular, neural and psycho-emotional health.

If you are planning to get pregnant or you already are, be sure to add folate to your daily diet or added over-the-counter or prescribed supplements.

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