Folic acid is an essential vitamin for a healthy pregnancy . It belongs to the group of B vitamins (vitamins involved in human metabolism) and its function is to prevent neural tube defects , that is, those problems that may arise in the brain or spinal cord.
However, folic acid is helpful as long as it is taken before conception and in the early weeks of pregnancy . This is because neural tube defects are usually original during the first four weeks of pregnancy ; this means that potential neuronal disturbances occur before many women know they are pregnant .
Therefore, it is important to have enough folic acid in the woman’s body before pregnancy, and for this it is recommended that they take it at childbearing age. Despite this, too many women do not have the recommended daily amount of folic acid. We tell you when to start taking it and everything you need to know about folic acid .
When to start taking folic acid?
If women of childbearing age consumed the recommended amount of folic acid before and during the first weeks of pregnancy, most neural tube defects could be prevented.
In all cases, the ideal period for this pharmacological supplementation is from at least two months before the beginning of pregnancy, until the 12th week of gestation .
The neural tube is the part of the embryo from which the brain and spinal cord are formed and begins to complete during the first month of pregnancy. If there is any type of abnormality during the formation process (for example, if it does not close completely) defects can occur in the brain and spinal cord.
There are two abnormalities that occur more frequently whenever there is some type of neural tube defect. We are talking about spina bifida and anencephaly (or open spine).
Other birth defects that can be avoided with an adequate amount of folic acid in the body are cleft lip , cleft palate and some heart problems.
How Much Folic Acid Do You Need?
It is recommended that all women capable of becoming pregnant take a vitamin supplement of 400 micrograms of folic acid, always as part of a healthy diet .
The diet should include foods rich in folic acid (for example: flour, rice, pasta, bread and cereals) and in folate, that is, the natural form of folic acid that is found in some foods such as They are green leafy vegetables, legumes or oranges.
Our body absorbs approximately 50% of the folate from food, while it absorbs about 85% of the folic acid present in fortified foods and 100% of the folic acid from vitamin supplements. Cooking and storage can destroy some of the folate in foods.
Do all women need the same amount of folic acid?
If the woman has suffered a pregnancy with neural tube defects, it is necessary to consult her doctor before the next pregnancy to find out the amount of folic acid to take.
In addition, if the woman has diabetes, epilepsy or obesity, she is at risk of having a baby with neural tube defects, so they should also consult their doctor before pregnancy to find out if they should take a higher dose of folic acid.
How long is folic acid needed if I am pregnant?
At least during the first trimester . Some pregnant women are advised to continue taking extra folic acid throughout their pregnancy as it must make the extra blood cells their body needs during that time.
Folic acid also contributes to the rapid growth of the placenta and fetus and is necessary to produce new DNA (genetic material) as cells multiply. Without the proper amount of folic acid, cell division could be impaired and lead to underdevelopment of the fetus or placenta.
When to take folic acid: in the morning or at night?
It is better to take it on an empty stomach, in the morning , since its absorption is greater.
How does folic acid prevent birth defects?
Although the exact way in which folic acid prevents neural tube defects is not known, most studies suggest that it could be due to correcting nutritional deficiencies . It is also suggested that it is because the folic acid supplement helps people to compensate for characteristic genetic traits that prevent them from taking advantage of the folate included in their diet. These traits could put women at additional risk of having babies with neural tube defects.
What other benefits does folic acid provide?
Folic acid is important for everyone’s health. It plays an important role in the production of red blood cells . People with folic acid deficiencies sometimes develop a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia (characterized by a reduced number of red blood cells). Folic acid may also play an important role in preventing other health problems.
An indispensable vitamin
Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps protect the baby from the moment it is conceived against serious birth defects that affect the spine and brain, called neural tube defects. It is also now believed that folic acid may help prevent certain health problems.
It is very important to take folic acid every day, especially during the weeks before conception and during the first weeks of pregnancy; waiting until you know that whether or not you are pregnant might not be good for the baby.
It is advisable to take about 400 micrograms of folic acid every day and to follow a healthy and balanced diet. Folic acid can be taken alone or in a multivitamin, in addition to being various foods, such as cereal, orange juice or green leafy vegetables. But it is necessary to know that no matter how healthy and balanced the diet is, it is difficult to obtain the necessary amount of folic acid from food. So, as you can see, folic acid is an indispensable help during pregnancy .