Folic acid is one of the B group of vitamins (B9). It plays an important part in everyone’s diet, as its responsible for cell growth and development.
Folic acid deficiency is the most common vitamin deficiency in the world. This is very concerning since it is critical to the proper development of a baby in the very first weeks of pregnancy. As 50% of all pregnancies are unplanned, hence it is important to start taking folic acid before pregnancy occurs, to help support proper development of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. The brain and spinal cord forms early on- this can be before you are even aware that you are pregnant. Having enough folic acid helps to ensure that they develop properly.
Folic acid helps to prevent serious birth defects affecting the brain and spinal cord. These are known as neural tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida results in lifelong disability. Most people with spina bifida are wheelchair users. Anencephaly (where the brain and skull fail to form fully) is almost fatal.
Thus, preconceptional intake of folic acid is a must for all those women who are planning a pregnancy. They should ideally start taking folic acid at least three months before conception and continue to do so until the 12th week of pregnancy. For most women the recommended daily dose will be 400mcg taken either as a single tablet or as part of a multivitamin.
When trying for a baby be sure your diet includes many foods rich in folic acid like green leafy vegetables, lentils, kidney beans, mung beans, rice germ, wheat germ, grapefruit, beet & mustard greens, tomato, broccoli, squash, fennel, cucumber, cooked spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, turnips, cabbage, walnuts.
But avoid consuming more than 1-2 cups of green and black tea as it has been shown to inhibit folic acid absorption.
Folic acid helps your body create a healthy baby, and given at the correct time & dose means reducing the risk of your pregnancy being affected by up to 80%. So every woman planning a pregnancy must have folic acid supplementation.