Most women know or have heard of the importance of folic acid and its link to pregnancy. Despite this fact, there are still a number of women who do not know exactly what folic acid is and what it does to our body and baby. According to UK news portal, Daily Mail, there is still a whopping 70 percent of women that do not take supplements regularly or early enough in pregnancy. This results in permanent disabilities and even death of the baby, which is something no parent would want, especially after trying to conceive for the longest time.
So to get our facts right, we’ve put together a guide on all you need to know about folic acid in hopes that you’ll be more aware of the importance of folic acid for every woman.
What is Folic Acid?
Folate (vitamin B9) is an essential nutrient that is required for DNA replication and as a substrate for a range of enzymatic reactions involved in amino acid synthesis and vitamin metabolism.1 It is bioavailable- a natural form of vitamin B9 found in a variety of plant and animal foods. Folic acid is the synthetic form of the vitamin and is primarily found in supplements and fortified foods.2
So Why Is Folic Acid So Important?
Folic Acid helps the body perform many essential functions, such as repairing our DNA and regenerate cells in our body. But most importantly, it helps prepare your body for pregnancy and also ensures that your little bub grows healthily in your tummy.2 Dietary supplementation with folic acid before conception and during pregnancy has long been known to reduce the risk of some major birth defects (known as neural tube defect) that can affect the baby’s brain and spine .3,4 Insufficient intake of folic acid in a woman is a serious issue that may lead to death of the fetus or newborn baby or life-long disability in those who survive. Hence it is of utmost importance that women get a sufficient amount of folic acid during these crucial times.
How Much Folic Acid Does A Woman Need?
The National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition under the Ministry of Health Malaysia, recommends taking 400 micrograms (mcg) every day5 especially when planning to conceive and during the time of pregnancy. Too little and you may not get the sufficient amount of folic acid, too much and you’ll risk masking other nutrient deficiencies.
When To Start Taking Folic Acid?
The best time to start taking it at least one month before planning to get pregnant and should be continued throughout the pregnancy as well.4
How Can A Woman Get Enough Folic Acid?
There are three ways that women can be sure to get enough folic acid each day:
- Eat foods such as dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, lentils, avocados, sunflower seeds, flax seeds and many more. 2
- Consume folic acid enriched flour and grain products such as bread, pasta, rice and cereal. 6
- Take supplements such as Appeton Essentials Folic Acid that contains the daily value of 400mcg every day to ensure that the recommended daily intake is met.
Taking The Right Dose
There are many options of folic acid available in the market, but remember to get one that meets the recommended dosage of 400mcg a day.
1. Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3218540/)
2. Global Healing Center. 15 Foods High in Folic Acid.Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM. 2011. (https://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/folic-acid-foods/#references)
3. Prevention of neural tube defects: results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study. MRC Vitamin Study Research Group.Lancet. 1991 Jul 20; 338(8760):131-7.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts About Folic Acid. (https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/about.html)
5. National Coordinating Committee on Food and Nutrition, Ministry of Health Malaysia. Recommended Nutrient Intakes for Malaysia. 2005.6.
6. Factors Contributing to the Success of Folic Acid Public Health Campaigns. Journal of Public Health, Volume 34, Issue 1, 1 March 2012, Pages 90–99, https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdr048