Folic acid & pregnancy: how does it work? Folic acid and pregnancy are a superhero combination. The B vitamin and human-made version of folate, also known as folic acid, is a significant role-player in your body, especially when there’s a bun in the oven, because it protects your baby from birth abnormalities called neural tube defects.
The body uses folic acid to make new cells for different body parts, such as your skin, hair and nails. Folic acid assists different parts of your body make new cells every day. Folic acid is a synthetic version of folate. It is found in supplements and fortified foods, including rice, pasta, bread and certain breakfast cereals.
How long after taking folic acid will I get pregnant?
Folic acid will not guarantee a pregnancy. However, studies show that fertile women take about 12 months from the start of taking folic acid to fall pregnant. But there are too many variables to link it directly.
There have been some small studies that suggest folic acid may increase the likelihood of conceiving twins and multiples, says Healthline. But there aren’t any large-scale studies to confirm that this increases your chances for multiples either. Taking folic acid will help protect your baby’s brain development if you are trying to get pregnant.
In relation to pregnancy, folic acid is essential in growing a healthy body and developing it properly. Your body makes DNA from folic acid and helps to develop your baby’s nervous system and neural tube while you are pregnant.
One of the first things your baby will grow is a neural tube – and its brain, spinal cord and bones are what enclose the tube. The neural tube usually forms in the first four to six weeks of pregnancy. A neural tube defect is not impossible. If it occurs, a range of disabilities come with it – for example, the loss of bladder and bowel control and paralysis of your legs. There are more severe effects too.
Starting to take folic acid
Because congenital disabilities occur in the first four weeks of pregnancy, WebMD recommends you already have folate in your system in that early stage. A study shows that women who take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid at least a year before falling pregnant lessen their chances of having a premature delivery by 50% or more.
Some women select their own prenatal vitamin, but it needs to be cleared by your obstetrician first because not all prenatal vitamins are the same. Some prenatal vitamins may contain less or more vitamins and minerals that you actually need.
How much folic acid is needed when you are pregnant?
A prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid is necessary for pregnant women every day. The combination assists in preventing congenital disabilities related to your baby’s brain and spinal cord. Along with the prenatal vitamin and folic acid, you can also include a bowl of fortified cereal.
Women who are already pregnant can take a folic acid test to see how much folic acid is already in their blood. The results can tell you if you are on track or indicate the possibility of having a baby with neural tube defects.
Folic acid aids your body with making new cells, as well as red blood cells. If you do not get enough folic acid, you can develop an illness called folate-deficiency anaemia. People with this condition are unable to make enough red blood cells to move oxygen through their body, therefore affecting various health aspects, such as organ function.
Pregnant women need more folic acid to help their foetus grow and develop. It also prevents neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida is a condition within which the bones of your baby’s spinal cord may not close properly. Anencephaly doesn’t allow your baby’s brain to develop correctly and will be fatal.
Some research shows that folic acid may prevent the risk of preterm labour, placenta developmental problems, cleft palate, heart disease and other birth abnormalities.
Folic acid side effects and risks
It is safe to consume folic acid orally and at a proper dosage. However, your body rejects excess in your urine if you take too much folic acid.
There are minor side effects of taking folic acid supplements, such as – having bad taste in your mouth, nausea, appetite loss, confusion, irritability and a disturbance in your sleeping pattern.
An allergic reaction to folic acid is possible, too, and you can see it like a rash, itching, redness or you may have difficulty breathing. A severe allergic reaction to folic acid requires you to call an ambulance immediately.
Foods high in folate
Folate is the natural form of folic acid. It can be found in different foods, such as banana, spinach, black-eyed peas, avocado, broccoli, oranges, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.
Combining folic acid supplements with dietary folate is also safe because you can’t get too much folate from food. However, you should monitor folic acid intake from supplements and significantly fortified cereals.
Always consult your doctor first
Good nutrition is essential for everyone, but even more so for pregnant women and successful birth.
Your doctor can steer you in the right direction about the correct dosage of a prenatal vitamin. Too many supplements can land up being toxic for the baby-to-be.
Doctors advise you to add foods fortified with folic acid into your diet – whether you plan to fall pregnant or not.