Folic Acid: What is it? Why do I need it?
Folic acid is one of the top two most crucial nutrients that are essential to a pregnant woman’s health. Along with iron, folic acid is found in almost every prenatal vitamin brand on the market. Prenatal vitamins such as Premama Prenatal Vitamin Drink Mix, recommend taking a daily prenatal supplement prior to conception. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women intake a daily dose of folic acid at least one month before conception and throughout their first trimester.
According to babycenter, women should start taking a folic acid prior to becoming pregnant for the following reasons:
- Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) – serious birth defects of the spinal cord (such as spina bifida) and the brain (anencephaly). Neural tube defects occur at a very early stage of development, before many women even know they’re pregnant. They affect about 3,000 pregnancies a year in the United States
- Some research suggests that folic acid may help lower your baby’s risk of other defects as well, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain types of heart defects.
- Your body needs folate to make normal red blood cells and prevent anemia
- Folate is essential for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA, our genetic map and a basic building block of cells. So getting enough folic acid is particularly important for the rapid cell growth of the placenta and your developing baby.
- Some research suggests that taking a multivitamin with folic acid may reduce your risk of preeclampsia, a complex disorder that can affect your health and your baby’s.
Along with taking a daily prenatal vitamin, there are certain foods that are rich in folic acid. However, studies do show that the body absorbs the synthetic version much better than folic acid from food sources. Natural folic acid can be found in lentils, dried beans, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, okra and citrus fruit and juices. It’s important to take a prenatal supplement with folic acid in addition to these foods to ensure you’re taking in as much as you need.