Folic acid and pregnancy: How Much Do You Need?

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Folic acid and pregnancy: How Much Do You Need?

Folic acid is a B vitamin found in a number of supplements and fortified foods. Your body uses folic acid to make new cells and produce DNA. It’s a requirement for normal growth and development throughout your life. Before and during your pregnancy, taking folic acid is particularly vital. It’s important for the proper organ development of a developing baby.

Health Benefits of Taking Folic Acid During Pregnancy

A fair number of babies are born with neural tube defects each year. The neural tube usually develops into the spinal cord and brain by 28 days after conception. When the neural tube doesn’t close properly, defects occur.

Congenital heart defects occur in 8 out of every 1,000 births. Maternal folic acid supplementation greatly decreases the risk of congenital heart defects according to a 2015 review on studies. The research also suggested that folic acid supplementation in early pregnancy may help prevent cleft lip and cleft palate.

How Much Folic Acid Do You Need?

Expectant mothers should take get at least 600 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. Most prenatal vitamins contain this amount of folic acid.

To ensure you have enough folic acid in your body, it’s recommended that women who plan to become pregnant take 400 mcg of folic acid daily. Taking folic acid after you discover you’re pregnant may not be enough as neural tube defects occur during the first month of pregnancy.

You may also need higher doses of folic acid if you have:

  • Kidney disease and are on dialysis
  • Sickle cell disease
  • liver disease
  • More than one alcoholic beverage daily
  • Medications to treat epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, or asthma

Can You Get Enough Folic Acid from Foods?

Natural folate can be found in numerous food sources which include including leafy greens, beets, and broccoli. Some foods are fortified with folic acid and they include:

  • Cereals
  • Rice
  • Orange juice
  • Pasta

There’s no guarantee that you will receive as much folic acid as you need from food alone, so a supplement is important.

If you’re planning to get pregnant in your not-so-distant future, consider adding a prenatal vitamin to your daily routine. Always ask your doctor about taking the correct dose of prenatal vitamin because taking too many supplements may prove toxic for your baby to be.

Make your health a priority by booking a women’s wellness check-up at your nearest women clinic today. Our Well Women appointments are quick female health check-ups available to all South African women at a reasonable price. These women’s health check-ups can be highly effective in early screenings that can be lifesaving. Contact us today!

Source: Marie Stopes South Africa (Safe Abortion and Post Abortion Family Planning)

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