The Benefits of Folic Acid
Folic acid is a B-complex vitamin supplement that helps our bodies to break down important amino and nucleic acids that help to keep us healthy. It is in some of the foods that we eat, but our bodies do not absorb much of it; therefore, it is important to take a vitamin supplement that contains folic acid. When folic acid is taken both before and during pregnancy to help protect your baby from developing a neural tube defect. Neural tube defects affect your baby’s nervous system while it is developing, therefore, a defect would occur during your first month of pregnancy. They include spina bifida, encephalocele, and anencephaly. It also helps to prevent cleft lips and cleft palates, as well as some heart defects.1
Many pregnancies are not planned, so if you are of childbearing age, you should get 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams (mg) of folic acid every day. Although some foods are fortified with folic acid, it still unclear whether or not this makes a difference in increasing folic acid levels in our bodies.
The most important times to make sure that you are getting enough folic acid is before you become pregnant, and in your first month of pregnancy.
If you were born with a neural tube defect, or if one of your children were born with a neural tube defect, or, if you are a Type 1 diabetic, you physician or midwife may encourage you to take a vitamin, or supplement that contains a specific amount of folic acid each day, starting three months before you become pregnant, and keep taking it during the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that, if it is possible for you to become pregnant, or if you are planning on becoming pregnant, you should take a vitamin, or supplement, that contains 0.4 to 0.8 milligrams (mg) of folic acid each day.1
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- Toriello, H. VTI (2011). Policy statement on folic acid and neural tube defects. Genetics in Medicine, 13, 593-596. doi: 10.1097/GIM.Ob013e31821d4188