When Should A Pregnant Woman Start Taking Folic Acid?

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If you’re pregnant, or planning to get pregnant, chances are, you’re advised to take folic acid. What is folic acid and when should you start taking it if you’re pregnant?

Folic Acid and Its Effects

Folic acid is a synthetic version of vitamin B9, an essential vitamin responsible for nerve health. In pregnant women, vitamin B9 plays a vital role in the development of the baby’s neural tube.

Pregnant women are prescribed folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects. These genetic defects can happen when folic acid intake is insufficient.

When Should a Pregnant Woman Start?

Ideally, a woman should start taking folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy. The neural tube is formed during the first month (3-4weeks) of pregnancy. A woman wanting to get pregnant should make sure her daily folate intake is enough.

It should also be noted that taking methylated folic acid or methylfolate is advised because the active form is better absorbed by the body.

Adequate folic acid intake is also shown to reduce preterm labor. A study showed that taking folic acid supplements at least a year before pregnancy reduces preterm labor and premature births by at least 50%.

What Other Problems are Prevented by Adequate Folic Acid Intake?

Aside from neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly, taking regular folic acid supplements can also prevent cleft palate and cleft lip, as well as pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and miscarriages.

Folic acid has also shown to decrease the chances of developing heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and stroke, so taking this supplement isn’t just for pregnant women.

How Much Folic Acid?

The general recommended daily dose of folic acid is 400mcg. This is for all women of childbearing age, and for women who are trying to get pregnant.

During pregnancy, the recommended amount changes. For the first three months, or first trimester, the recommended dose is 400 mcg. For the rest of the pregnancy, the dose is 600 mcg. And, if the mother decides to breastfeed, the recommended dose is 500mcg.

Most OB-GYNs will prescribe prenatal vitamins that will meet your needs. If you happen to choose one that wasn’t prescribed by your doctor, make sure to have it checked so that you’re sure you’ll be getting the right dose of folic acid.

Can You Get Folic Acid from Whole Foods?

Yes! Of course, the form of vitamin B9 you can get from foods is folate, not folic acid. Foods rich in folate include spinach, beef liver, lentils, and eggs. Fortified cereals can give you as much as 100% of your daily dose of folic acid, so check the label.

Vitamin B9 plays an important role in the body, especially to an unborn baby. Pregnant women should take care to include folic acid in their daily diet as early as possible.

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