If you’re expecting or planning to have a child, your first and foremost responsibility is to take care of yourself so that your baby gets all the required nutrition. Trust us! You don’t want to compromise with your baby’s health.
Every mom-to-be ensures she does all that’s necessary to her child’s wellbeing. Part of this means you intake a proper balanced diet along with other key elements like vitamins and minerals. One of the most important nutrients gynecologists advise expecting women take is folate – a vitamin that plays a crucial role in the first month of pregnancy.
But why is folate or folic acid so critical during pregnancy? What benefits does it give to the fetus? Let’s find out.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is the man-made form of vitamin folate, which is popularly known as vitamin B9. Folate allows your body to make active and healthy red blood cells. Remember, your body can’t generate folate on its own; therefore, it’s necessary to obtain it through dietary intake.
Folate is found in a variety of plants and animal foods like spinach, citrus fruits, avocado, eggs, beef liver, etc. Folic acid, on the contrary, is added to foods including ready-to-eat cereal, bread, and flour. In case you’re cutting down on these food items, there’s no need to worry because folate is also easily available in the form of dietary supplements. Meaning, you have enough choices to pick from!
Benefits of consuming a folate-rich diet
Keep in mind, your body uses folate for a wide variety of critical functions including:
- Maturation of RBCs (red blood cells)
- Repair, synthesis, and methylation of DNA
- Prevention of anemia/folate deficiency
- Reduction of the side effects caused by a drug named methotrexate, a medication used for the treatment of severe arthritis, psoriasis, and crohn’s disease
A deficiency of folate can cause an array of health concerns in your body. It may even lead to heart diseases, cancer, birth defects, and anemia. Factors that can cause a folate deficiency are:
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Drugs that increase folate absorption
- Poor dietary intake
Folic acid during pregnancy
As we’ve already mentioned, folic acid and folate supplementation are great during pregnancy. It promotes the healthy development of the baby and keeps her at bay from any kind of birth defects, especially neural tube defects and anencephaly (a condition where parts of the baby’s skull and brain are missing).
During pregnancy, it is advised to take folic acid during the first 12 weeks or first month. In case there are chances of having a neural tube defect in the baby, your doctor may suggest you take a comparatively higher dosage for a bit longer.
Point to be noted!
Make sure you’re not mixing your folic acid supplementation with other herbal or ayurvedic supplements. Even if you’re planning to do so, make sure you consult a pharmacist or your doctor before taking it. There could be a possibility that the herbs you’re mixing with your supplements already contain a good amount of folic acid and it may not work best when mixed with some other kind of vitamin.
Above all, we recommend that you be mindful of your supplementation and stop playing around with what goes inside your body. Remember, everything will impact the little life growing inside of you.