Turns Out, Folic Acid is Super Important When You’re Pregnant
What's the one important thing that all pregnant women hear they need to have a healthy pregnancy? If you're pregnant or planning to be pregnant, you've probably heard that you should be taking folic acid.
You've heard it. You may have nodded your head at your doctor's recommendation or at that one article that told you should be taking folic acid. But you may have never actually realized how important it is.
And as it would turn out, folic acid is super important. It's not one of those things that people tell pregnant women just for the sake of telling them what to do. Who knew?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has new recommendations. Pregnant women should continue to see folic acid as an important way to keep their babies healthy. The task force looked at 24 different studies to weigh the benefits and risks of folic acid to prevent birth defects in developing babies.
What the task force found is that folic acid plays an important role in preventing birth defects. Specifically, folic acid helps prevent defects in the brain and spinal cord, called neural tube defects. When the spinal cord and brain develop in babies, they develop in a way that leaves them “open” at first, then “close” as they develop fully. Sometimes, the neural cord can fail to develop correctly and portions of it will remain open.
What's most important to know is that the development of the brain and spinal cord happen in the first few weeks of pregnancy. This is a time when many women do not even know they are pregnant yet. So folic acid supplements are especially important. If you are trying to conceive, it's recommended that you take a supplement of 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day. You should also take a folic acid supplement, or a prenatal vitamin, for the first three months of pregnancy.
You can get folic acid naturally from foods such as dark, leafy greens, vegetables, and oranges. However, most women do not eat enough of those foods to get the folic acid that they need in their pregnancies. So, a supplement is still recommended.