Why is a folic acid supplement so important for a pregnant woman?
How much folic acid should a pregnant woman be taking each day?
The CDC encourages women to have an intake of 0.4-0.6 mg (400-500 mcg) of folic acid a day. It is recommended to take a folic acid supplement. Folic acid is the name for the synthetic form of vitamin B9. As with all B vitamins, they are water soluble. What this means for the mom is that your body does not store this vitamin, hence, the need for supplements.
Why is this so important?
In addition to supporting the placenta folic acid helps with the formation of the nervous system, specifically the neural tube (the center of the spine that houses the man nerves), thereby preventing neural tube defects (NTD). In particular, folic acid helps to prevent both spina bifida and anencephaly. Additionally, vitamin B9 strengthens one's blood.
What is Spina Bifida?
Spina bifida is when the spine does not close completely around the neural tube which makes the baby at great risk to nerve damage. Many times this defect is not diagnosed until after birth. The results can be minor to catastrophic, both physically and mentally.
What is Anencephaly?
Anencephaly is when a child is born missing parts of the brain and/or skull. This can happen when the neural tube does not close all the way at the top. Most babies born with anencephaly do not survive long after birth.
When to start taking supplements?
The neural tube develops mostly in the first month of pregnancy, oftentimes before the mom is even aware that she's pregnant. In order to help prevent such complications it is recommended that women who have a chance of getting pregnant should be monitoring their intake of folic acid on a daily basis. Additionally, one should keeping up their intake at least through the pregnancy so that the baby's nervous system develops completely.
Where is folic acid/Vitamin B9 found naturally?
Folic acid is oftentimes added to foods. You can check food packages to see if it says "fortified with folic acid". These products include breads, breakfast cereals, flours, pasta, cornmeal, and white rice. Additionally, it is found naturally in foods like green leafy veggies, oranges, beets, nuts, beans, and broccoli.