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The Importance Of Folic Acid In Pregnancy

By Pooja Kaushal

Pregnancy is a special stage in every woman’s life, both physically and mentally. Her health in both aspects affects the growing baby as well. So, in order to have a healthy and happy baby, it is important for the woman to be absolutely fit and healthy.

While mental happiness remains to be in the domain of the woman and her family, the physical aspect should be taken care of by the doctor.

However, this would be possible only if the expecting mother closely follows the advice of her gynaecologist. One very significant mention can be made about the importance of folic acid in pregnancy.

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin and a vital nutrient for the healthy development of the foetus.

Why does folic acid in pregnancy hold such an important position? This is the time when your body, as an expecting mother, is rapidly changing. The uterus is expanding and the baby is growing at a pretty fast rate.

Merely depending on food will not be enough to meet the demand of the body, and taking supplements is the best thing you can do for yourself and eventually for your baby. The deficiency of folic acid can lead to a serious birth defect, which you may not be able to reverse.

Deficiency of folate or folic acid causes NTD or neural tube defects, which are the defects that affect a child for life. Two most significant birth defects related to NTD are spina bifida and anencephaly.

Spina bifida: Spina bifida is a condition in which the covering that grows around the unborn baby’s spinal cord does not close properly. It leaves a gap in between, making the baby susceptible to a serious nerve damage. It could also possibly lead to paralysis in some cases.

Anencephaly: Another very serious defect occurring due to deficiency of folic acid in pregnancy is anencephaly when a major portion of the brain, skull and scalp is missing. This happens mostly in the early stages of pregnancy.

The importance of folic acid in pregnancy goes beyond the prevention of NTD. The body requires folic acid for the making of normal red blood cells and also towards preventing a certain type of anaemia.

Folic acid is also required for producing, repairing and functioning of our DNA.

With the placenta and baby growing at a rapid rate, it is important to ensure a healthy growth for the baby and, hence, a good dose of folic acid.

When tests reveal and confirm your pregnancy, your gynaecologist and obstetrician should instantly prescribe you folic acid supplements.

The usual dose is supposed to remain around 400 micrograms, but there can be changes as per your personal conditions.

This should be taken after you’ve conceived; however, doctors do advise all women of the birth-giving age to take a folic acid supplement, as it keeps the body prepared.

As is known by all, most pregnancies are unplanned and, so, if you have been taking folic acid supplements, your body will be prepared to carry the baby in a healthy state.

Considering the importance of folic acid in pregnancy, one might ask if it is available naturally or not. Some of the natural sources of folic acid include dark green leafy vegetables, oranges, chickpeas, corn, lentils, broccoli, etc.

However, during pregnancy, these cannot replace the supplements prescribed by your doctor.

Including these in your diet will be a good practice, but the amount would not be enough to meet your needs and your growing baby’s needs as well.

Therefore, to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery, be very careful about your own health, as your health will reflect upon the baby. Understand the importance of folic acid in pregnancy and gift your baby a healthy start.

Read more about: pre natal pregnancy folic acid foods
Story first published: Friday, January 15, 2016, 16:30 [IST]
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