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Folic acid and pregnancy

Folic acid, also known as folate, is one of the B-group vitamins. The vitamin has several functions most importantly working together with vitamin B12 to form healthy blood cells and to develop DNA. It  helps to reduce the risk of certain defects in unborn babies, such as spina bifida, by contributing to the normal development of the spine. The vitamin is important during pregnancy for the healthy development of both you and your baby. During pregnancy cells divide rapidly and folate supports this process, which is why it is essential  that mothers have enough folic acid in their systems.

Sources of Folic acid

Folate is found in small amounts in many foods:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Brown rice
  • Cereals

How much folate do I need?

Folate cannot be stored in the body, so you need it in your daily diet. If you are pregnant or preparing yourself for pregnancy the Recommended Dietart Allowance (RDA) for folic acid is 0.6 mg/day. These levels can only be reached with additional support from supplements.

It is recommended to take a daily 0.4 mg of folic acid supplement once you have stopped using contraception until week 12 of pregnancy. This will help prevent birth defects associated with the central nervous system. Mothers who have experienced a  pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect, must  take 5mg of folic acid daily until week 12 of pregnancy. This is available on prescription from your doctor. Women with diabetes and those taking anti-epileptic medicines should speak to their doctor for further advice.

Folic acid definicency

A lack of folate could lead to folate deficiency anaemia.  Premature babies are  more prone to developing folate deficiency anaemia due to their developing bodies not being able to meet the demand for the folate vitamin. Symptoms of anameia include tiredness and a lack of energy. If you suspect you or your baby is suffering from anaemia consult your physician as soon as possible to arrange a blood test.

Find out more at vitamins during pregnancy.

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