Taking folic acid prior to and during pregnancy can prevent serious birth defects
Women of all ages need to take folic acid, a B vitamin that aids your body in the creation of new cells. However, for women of childbearing age, taking folic acid is critical.
Taking the recommended amount of folic acid at least a month before becoming pregnant and throughout your pregnancy (particularly during the first trimester) can prevent serious birth defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida and anencephaly are neural tubal defects of the spine and brain that occur very early in pregnancy, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.
“All women of childbearing age, even those who are on birth control or have no intention of getting pregnant, should be taking adequate amounts of folic acid, as many pregnancies are unplanned,” says Dr. Catherine Roane-Blaker of Oakwood Women’s Centre.
Women who want to become pregnant should take at least 600 mcg
At Oakwood Women’s Centre, our team of OBGYNs recommends all women take a daily supplement that includes at least 400 micrograms of folic acid, the amount typically found in a multivitamin. Women who want to become pregnant need at least 600 micrograms of folic acid daily, the amount found in most prenatal vitamins. Our OBGYNs will prescribe higher dosages of folic acid when necessary.
Folate is the natural form of B9, and it is found in some foods, such as leafy, dark green vegetables, beans, citrus fruits and whole grains. Folic acid is the synthetic or man-made form of folate and it is found in supplements and fortified foods such as breads, cereals, pasta, rice and flour. Read food and supplement labels carefully, as they usually list the amount of folate or folic acid.
Vitamins and supplements are the best way to ensure getting the proper amount of folic acid
Surprisingly, folate is not absorbed well by the body through natural sources. Even if you consume many of the foods that naturally contain folate, you can’t be sure that you are getting all the folic acid you need to reduce the risk of birth defects. Therefore, it is important to take a vitamin or supplement with folic acid every day.
To protect your health and prevent serious birth defects, make sure you are consuming the right amount of folic acid every day. Talk to Dr. Roane-Blaker or one of our OBGYNs about folic acid during preconception counseling or at your annual well-woman exam. Be proactive and contact Oakwood Women’s Centre today to make an appointment.