Why Do Pregnant Women Need Folic Acid, Folate?

January 24, 2023 4:56 pm72 commentsViews: 67

What is folic acid? What is folate? What are the differences between the two, and why are they important for women of child-bearing age and especially women who are trying to conceive and pregnant women? Folic acid and folate are a B vitamin, B9 (also called folacin) to be exact. Folate is naturally occurring and is found in various foods. Folic acid is synthetic and is added to vitamins, breakfast cereals, and grains. Folate and folic acid both prevent birth defects.

Why Do Pregnant Women Need Folic Acid, Folate?

Folic Acid, Folate Lower Risk of Having Baby with Neural Tube Defect, Other Health Problems

Women who get enough folic acid or folate in their diets significantly reduce the risk of having a baby with devastating health problems, including neural tube defects (NTDs). The March of Dimes notes women who get enough folic acid reduce the risk of their baby being born with a neural tube defect by up to 70 percent.

A neural tube defect occurs when the baby’s neural tube does not close completely, which causes the brain, spinal cord, or the spinal cord’s protective coverings to not develop all the way. There are various neural tube defects. Spina bifida, one common NTD, causes leg paralysis, learning difficulties, and bladder control issues.

According to WebMD.com, research suggests getting enough folic acid can also lower the incidence of miscarriage, preeclampsia, premature birth, low birth weight, and cleft lip.

How Much Folate or Folic Acid Does a Woman Need?

Women should get at least 0.4 milligrams of folic acid per day prior to conception and for at least three months after conception, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Since many pregnancies are unplanned, it is best for all women of child-bearing age to ensure they are getting the recommended amount of folic acid.

Foods High in Folate and Vitamins with Folic Acid

Women can get folate from various foods and folic acid from some breakfast cereals, grains, and vitamins. There are many fruits, including oranges, grapefruits, melon, avocados, and raspberries, and veggies, including spinach, broccoli, kale, asparagus, and beets, that are high in folate. Folate is also found in nuts and seeds and in liver and organ meats.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) began requiring some breakfast cereals and grains to be fortified with folic acid in the mid-1990s. The FDA wanted to help women get more folic acid in their diets.

Prenatal vitamins, multivitamins, and folic acid supplements are also available.

Women Should Make Sure to Get Enough Folic Acid, Folate

Folate and folic acid are especially important for women of child-bearning age. Making sure her diet is high enough in folate or taking a vitamin with folic acid is one of the best preventative measures a woman can take to lower the risk of having a baby with a devastating birth defect.


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