Folic acid in Pregnancy and Foods Containing it

Folic acid is an essential vitamin for the development of the baby, before and during pregnancy. Why is it so important during pregnancy and what foods are rich in folic acid?

In pregnancy, folic acid, or vitamin B12, is very important. Its consumption is essential in the diet of the pregnant woman and the woman who wishes to become pregnant. This substance is very important in pregnancy because the body needs it for different functions.

  • Build the cells. During pregnancy, the cells of the maternal organism undergo “overexertion”, since they contribute to the development of the fetus.
  • Prevent a particular form of anaemia, called “megaloblastic”. This type of anaemia is characterized by larger than normal red blood cells, which however contain little haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the substance that transports oxygen to organs and tissues.

If folic acid reserves are low in early pregnancy, they are completely depleted during pregnancy. This carries the consequent danger of causing megaloblastic anaemia. Therefore, it is very important, from the beginning of pregnancy, to schedule a diet with the gynaecologist and consume the appropriate foods.

What is Folic Acid for and What does it Prevent in Pregnancy?

Expectant mothers who consume correct doses of folic acid are less likely to have a baby with malformations of the central nervous system, such as:

  • Incomplete development of the brain.
  • Spina bifida. A spine that has not yet closed, with alterations of the spinal cord.
  • Likewise, folic acid helps to prevent defects of the lip, palate, heart, kidneys and extremities.

Consequently, it is essential to provide the embryo with an adequate supply of folic acid during its first 4-8 weeks of pregnancy. It is in this period when the formation of the main organs takes place.

Women who want to become pregnant should consume folic acid a few months before conception. And it is that, in most cases, when the first month of gestation has already passed, it is not aware that a child is expected.

Folic Acid May Prevent Language Delays

The supply of folic acid from the four weeks prior to conception to at least eight weeks of pregnancy would result in a lower risk of a language delay in the baby.

The authors of this research followed the mothers of 38,954 children born between 1999 and 2008. Among other things, the study participants filled out a questionnaire about their pregnancy habits, the motor skills of their little ones and their abilities to communicate to the three years.

Crossing the data, the researchers found that the children with the least risk of language delay were the children of the participants who had taken folic acid in the first months of pregnancy.

Reduces the Risk of Hyperactivity

Head circumference is an indicator of brain volume. Predicts the risk of hyperactivity, inattention and behavioural difficulties at birth. Taking these premises into account, scientists from the University of Southampton (United Kingdom) carried out a study with 100 minors with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and learning problems.

During their pregnancy, the levels of folic acid in the blood were evaluated during the first 14 weeks of gestation and measurements were taken of the circumference size of all the newborns. The data found that low levels of folic acid in the first months of pregnancy were associated with a higher incidence of hyperactivity and learning problems in children.

The same was true of the ‘measurement’ of the baby’s skull circumference. Lower levels of the vitamin were associated with smaller cranial sizes.

Foods with Folic Acid

The so-called ” Mediterranean diet ” usually guarantees the body a sufficient supply of folic acid. However, it is not enough to choose the right foods.

It is necessary to bear in mind that this vitamin is not very stable if exposed to high temperatures since its value is partially destroyed by cooking. Nor should it be exposed to light, so the foods that contain it should not be exposed to direct sunlight.

An adequate supply of folic acid is very important even before you get pregnant since this vitamin will prevent neural tube defects in the fetus. However, in addition to its contribution through the diet, a supplement is recommended that can be prescribed by your doctor.

Foods rich in folic acid are green leafy vegetables. Such is the case of spinach, broccoli, chard, asparagus, cauliflower and watercress.

Legumes and whole grains are also a good source of folic acid.

Among the fruits whose content in folic acid is higher, we can include orange, strawberry, melon and banana.

How much Folic Acid to Take

Regarding the adequate daily amount of folic acid during pregnancy, it must be borne in mind that, apart from pregnancy, the ideal amount is 0.2 mg. (valid dose for both men and women). For a pregnant woman, the daily amount necessary is 0.4-0.8 mg.

The human body is not capable of producing folic acid, as is the case with most vitamins. Therefore, it is important to consume it through the foods that contain it. The fact consumes daily a good amount of fruit and vegetables is certainly a good habit. However, to help the embryo develop on a regular basis and to ensure that 0.4-0.8 mg is provided. daily folic acid, it is necessary an added contribution, which can be introduced in two ways:

  • Consume a pharmaceutical product containing it daily, after advice and indication from the gynaecologist.
  • Consume foods with added folic acid, especially for pregnant women.

Folic Acid also has an Effect on Men

The prevention of having a healthy child also depends on men. These, like women, should start taking folic acid “in small amounts” of 0.4 milligrams daily and at least three months before seeking pregnancy.

The director of this centre and author of the research, María Luisa Martínez Frías, also recommends a diet healthy and balanced, non-smoking. Nor should a man drink alcoholic beverages, medications without consulting the doctor and must strictly follow the rules to prevent occupational risks, especially with chemicals, both before and during pregnancy.

Of course, the study author points out, “the father should do it the same” or, at least, until the end of the second month prior to conception. This would be so, especially in the case of exposure to chemicals of any kind. And is that most of them are excreted in the seminal fluid and theoretically could contaminate women.

Leave a Comment