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8 Health Benefits Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy

Diet plays a vital role during the pregnancy period. A healthy and nutritious diet keeps away pregnancy complications and provides needed nutrition both to the mother and the foetus. The recommended amount of folic acid per day during pregnancy is 600 µg.

Folic acid or its supplementation is more than just a neural tube prevention nutrient. The role of this essential nutrient is quite prominent for baby's growth and development, synthesis of amino acid, prevention of congenital anomalies, vitamins metabolism and replication of DNA.

In this article, we will discuss some of the amazing benefits of folic acid during pregnancy. Take a look and must-include folic acid enriched foods in your diet.

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1. Prevents neural tube defects

Spina bifida is one of the serious neural tube defects characterised by developmental problems of the central nervous system in the foetus. A study has shown that consumption of the recommended amount of folic acid, before conception and at least throughout the first trimester can help prevent the risk of spina bifida in newborns. [1]

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2. Lowers the risk of cleft lip and cleft palate

It is a condition in which a child is born with openings or splits in their upper lips or roof of the mouth. A study has shown that cleft lips in newborns were higher for mothers who do not take folic acid in the first trimester, compared to those who have taken during the period. The result highlights that folic acid may partially help in the prevention of the condition. [2]

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3. Contributes to peripheral nerve injury repair

According to a study, folic acid may speed up the repairment procedure of peripheral nerve injury by promoting multiplication of Schwann cells (that forms the myelin sheath) and regulation of nerve growth factors. This shows the neurotrophic effects of this essential vitamin during pregnancy. [3]

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4. Lowers risk of congenital heart defects

A study finding says that higher maternal consumption of folate or folic acid helps in reducing the risk of congenital heart defects in infants. The study also highlights that recommended intake of folic acid helps in decreasing cases of the ventricular septal defect and atrial septal defect secundum in children whose mothers had high folic acid during early pregnancy. [4]

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5. Prevents the risk of anaemia

Anaemia or iron deficiency during pregnancy is linked to increased risk of many perinatal complications such as low birth weight and preeclampsia and maternal mortality. Daily iron intake or iron in combination with folic acid helps reduce cases of anaemia during pregnancy to around 73 per cent. [5]

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6. Essential for the functioning of the DNA

DNA methylation is an important factor in genomic imprinting or say, a phenomenon in which genes of both parents' are expressed or copied to newborns. Lack of essential genes can lead to delayed development, disability and many ailments in newborns. Folic acid is a vital nutrient that helps generate methyl groups for DNA methylation. [6]

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7. Necessary for embryonic development

Folic acid helps with epigenetic programming, a mechanism that contributes to the embryonic, tissues and stems cells development. According to a study, folic acid fortification in foods is the first modern strategy developed for the treatment and prevention of birth defects. The nutrient helps in the development of the brain and spinal cord of the baby and makes sure that there are no prenatal defects in the foetus. [8]

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8. Prevents down syndrome

Down syndrome is a severe learning disability in infants born with the condition. It is a common form of aneuploidy, a defect in newborns characterised by abnormal chromosome number. Studies say that this abnormality of chromosome can be reduced if the folate levels during pregnancy are increased. [9]