Benefits of Folic Acid

BENEFITS OF FOLIC ACID BEFORE AND DURING PREGNANCY

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Folic acid (also known as Folate or vitamin B9) is a vitamin responsible for the growth and the protection of our cells. It is found in some foods and in multivitamin supplements.

BENEFITS OF FOLIC ACID BEFORE AND DURING PREGNANCY

Folic acid (also known as Folate or vitamin B9) is a vitamin responsible for the growth and the protection of our cells. It is found in some foods and in multivitamin supplements.
During pregnancy the uterus (womb) expands, the placenta develops, the body circulates more blood, the fetus grows and the cells are divided quickly, needing more Folic acid for a healthy pregnancy.
Maintaining healthy eating habits and proper levels of vitamins and minerals (such as folic acid) before conception and during pregnancy helps to decrease the risk of some birth defects, such as neural tube defects (NTDs), heart and limb defects, urinary tract anomalies and oral facial clefts (like cleft lip and cleft palate).
Folic acid plays an important role in the early development of the neural tube (Brain and spine cord). The neural tube forms in weeks three and four of pregnancy and grows into the brain and spinal cord. When the tube doesn’t close properly, this is called a neural tube defect (NTD). Some examples of NTDs are spina bifida, anencephaly (absence of part of the brain), and encephalocele (part of the brain grows outside the skull).
Folic acid is found in dark green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, whole grains, and other foods.
In some countries like Canada, white flour, pasta, and cornmeal have been fortified with folic acid. Since then, there has been a decline in neural tube defects.
For instance, in 1992, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) advised fortifying food supply with folic acid. In 1998 folic acid started being added to breads and other grains.

Sources of folic acid:

Fortified grains, spinach, lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, broccoli, peas, Brussels sprouts, corn, oranges
Since folic acid is so important in the early stages of pregnancy, it should be started when trying to conceive, ideally 3 months prior and to continue through pregnancy and for at least four to six weeks after birth and as long as you are breastfeeding.

Discuss with your doctor:

If you are at a low risk for neural tube defects (NTDs), choose a multivitamin with 0.4 to1.0 milligrams (mg) of folic acid. However, if you are at a higher risk for NTDs, Your Doctor may suggest a higher daily dose of folic acid up to 5 mg for at least three months before conception. After 10-12 weeks of pregnancy, switch to the lower dose (0.4-1.0 mg) for the rest of the pregnancy and continue while breastfeeding

Women at higher risk:

  • With previous pregnancy affected by NTDs
  • Family history of NTDs
  • Ethnic group that research shows is at a higher risk for NTDs (such as Sikh or Celtic)
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Certain medications to treat a seizure disorder (Epilepsy)

What are the other benefits of Folic acid?

Helps in depression

Several studies have indicated that Folate supplements can reduce depression. A deficiency may cause an increased risk of depression and dementia.

Helps to keep brain younger

Adequate Folate levels are necessary for proper brain functioning. Studies have shown that Folate benefits the brain by slowing down the effects of aging.

Production of red blood cells

Folate is the key in the development of red blood cells or erythrocytes. A lack of this compound can make the body susceptible to cancer. In addition, the body’s defense mechanism and the white blood cells are also manufactured in the presence of Folate supplements.

Thwarting heart disease

Folic acid has a role in maintain the heart healthy. It also helps to remove homocysteine, a toxic compound that can lead to severe artery damage if not eliminated from the blood.

Dr. Soraya Farah,
Obstetrician-Gynecologist and Fetal Medicine
SerenityClinic Fetal-Maternal Care
DubaiHealth Care City

Published and translated in Haya Magazine by Joumaana Sabbagh, guided by Dr. Soraya Farah, Obstetrician-Gynecologist and Fetal Medicine at Serenity Clinic in Dubai Health Care City, this article emphasizes the benefits of Folic Acid before and during pregnancy