Folic acid is a vitamin – B9, which, taken regularly before and during pregnancy, helps prevent neural tube defects – the most common being major birth defects of the baby’s brain (known as anencephaly) and spinal cord (spinal Bifida).
Anencephaly is a malformation incompatible with life, which means that parts of the brain and skull do not develop correctly. Spina bifida is a condition in which a vertebral arch is incomplete, which can lead to some severe physical disabilities.
If you were previously pregnant with a child with a neural tube defect, it is possible that the doctor who monitors your pregnancy will recommend a higher dose of folic acid, up to 4000 mcg per day. Make sure the doctor knows your medical history well and schedule a visit with him before trying to get pregnant.
For women on their first pregnancy with twins, the specialist may recommend a dose of 1000 mcg of folic acid per day. Those who have diabetes are also more likely to have a child with birth defects.
The life of the fetus depends on this vitamin
In the third week of pregnancy, a period called gastrulation, specialized cells from the dorsal part of the fetus begin to fuse, forming the neural tube. If the anatomical region is not fully formed, neural tube defects occur.
“The nervous system of the future baby is formed in the first 3 months of life, from the neural tube, and an optimal level of folic acid prevents congenital malformations of the spine such as spina bifida or facial malformations such as a rabbit’s lip or a wolf’s mouth. Also, folic acid helps the development of red blood cells, preventing anemia, reducing the risk of congenital heart diseases in the baby, and reducing the risk of premature birth. Moreover, during pregnancy, folic acid deficiency can lead to complications such as low birth weight or even abortion”, says Dr. Luminiţa Alexandrescu, primary care physician.
It is recommended to take folic acid daily
Every woman, whether she is pregnant or not, whether she is thinking of having a child in the near future or plans to become a mother only in a few years, must consume folic acid daily.
The human body continuously produces cells, for blood, skin, hair, nails, etc., and for this process to work as it should, folic acid is needed. That’s why most doctors recommend taking this supplement as part of your daily routine.
Moreover, if the woman happens to get pregnant unplanned, the risks of folic acid deficiency are very high for the fetus. Many times, problems arise before the mother-to-be discovers that she is pregnant.
Did you know that..
…obese women seem to be more likely to have a baby with a neural tube defect? In this case, it is best for the expectant mother to talk to the doctor during the preconception period. More than 400 mcg of folic acid per day is usually recommended.
Vitamin B9 is found in many foods
The easiest way to get enough folic acid is to take a multivitamin. Most of those available on the market contain the recommended daily dose.
If supplements upset your stomach, take the tablets with a meal or just before bed, always with a full glass of water. If the situation is more delicate than that, you can also get what you need from food. For example, folic acid has been added to food products such as bread, pasta, rice, and cereals.
Check the nutrition label on their packaging. Vitamin B9 is also found in beans, peas, lentils, oranges, asparagus, spinach, and broccoli.
How do you recognize the deficiency?
Signs of folic acid deficiency can be subtle: diarrhea, anemia, lack of appetite, and weight loss, as well as weakness, headaches, palpitations, and irritability.
However, if the deficiency is mild, there may be no symptoms, although this may affect the early development of the embryo.
Dr. Luminiţa Alexandrescu, primary care physician, e-mail: [email protected]: 0722665988
No tests are needed to determine if it is necessary for the pregnant woman to take folic acid, but from the usual tests recommended at the beginning of pregnancy, the doctor can also determine if the pregnant woman has a deficiency of folic acid. It cannot be stored by the body from one day to the next, therefore daily administration is recommended.
Folic acid supplements are among the few pharmaceutical tablets that pregnant women can take without worry. Moreover, folic acid or folate is also found in food (the main sources being vegetables and fruits), especially if they are eaten raw. But due to intensive agriculture, soil impoverishment, and pesticide pollution, the nutritional qualities of food have declined, including the folic acid content.