Are you ready to try for a baby or just recently found out you are pregnant? One important thing a woman can do in preparation for her baby is to take folate (also known as folic acid). Folic acid is a B-vitamin and is essential for proper cell growth.
Melissa Moore, CNM, MS, RN is a certified nurse midwife and explains the role of folic acid in preparation for pregnancy.
“Folic acid is most important before conception to prevent neural tube defects,” explained Moore.
Neural tube defects (NTDs) are birth defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord. NTDs occur in about 3,000 pregnancies each year in the United States. These types of birth defects can cause serious health risks for babies, including spina bifida and anencephaly. According to the National Birth Defects Prevention Network, folic acid can prevent up to 70% of serious birth defects.
Folic acid can benefit both mom and baby. “Folic acid helps the body produce new cells, especially red blood cells. It also helps maintain normal cellular DNA, which can help prevent cancer,” said Moore.
So when should women begin taking folic acid?
“Ideally, women should take a prenatal vitamin containing at least 800mcg of folic for at least three months prior to conception,” said Moore.
Because NTDs develop within the first few weeks of pregnancy, it is important that women have enough folic acid in their system prior to becoming pregnant. If an unplanned pregnancy occurs (almost half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned), Moore encourages women to start as soon as they know they are pregnant.
“Folic acid supplementation is one of the simplest and most important things we can do to prepare our bodies for pregnancy. If a woman is considering becoming pregnant, she should absolutely make sure to take a supplement,” said Moore.
In addition to a supplement, Moore encourages women to seek out dietary sources of folic acid, such as leafy green veggies, dried beans, and citrus foods.
Talk to your health care provider before taking any kind of prenatal vitamin. Call 727.2727 to schedule an appointment.