What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins that occurs naturally in foods, like legumes, oranges, papayas, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, asparagus, greens, dark lettuce and eggs. Foods high in folic acid are also high in other important vitamins and minerals. Folic acid is necessary for the growth of new cells.
What Are the Benefits of Taking Folic Acid During Pregnancy?
There are some important advantages that result from taking folic acid:
It enhances fertility – In a study released in 2006, American researchers reported their findings after having followed the progress of 18,500 nurses who planned to become pregnant over an eight-year period in the 1990s. The researchers evaluated the nurses’ diets including whether or not they took vitamin supplements. They found that the nurses taking multivitamins with folic acid six days a week or more had a 40 percent reduced risk of ovulation failure, a primary cause of infertility. The nurses who tool multivitamins with folic acid three to five days a week had a 30 percent decreased risk.
It helps prevent birth defects – It is believed that folic acid switches the insulin-like growth factor 2 gene on and off as needed during the baby’s development and this results in proper growth. When there isn’t enough folic acid, it can result in changes to the insulin-like growth factor 2 gene that can produce a birth defect. Two of the birth defects that may result from low levels of folic acid include spina bifida (damage to the spinal cord) and anencephaly (damage to the brain). They affect approximately 3,000 pregnancies annually in the U. S. Folic acid also decreases risk for cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain heart defects.
It aids in placenta development – Folic acid is necessary for the creation, repair, and functioning of DNA, the basis for cell development. That’s why it is especially important to have the necessary levels of folic acid as the cells of the placenta rapidly grow.
Pregnant women should take their prenatal vitamins containing folic acid at least two to three times weekly.
When Should a Woman of Child Bearing Age Begin Taking Folic Acid?
It is important for a woman of child bearing years to take folic acid before getting pregnant. Ninety percent of all pregnancies are unplanned.
You should also keep in mind that defects like spina bifida and anencephaly occur very early in the baby’s development, usually before many women find out they’re pregnant. Taking folic acid before you plan to become pregnant will decrease risk for these birth defects dramatically.
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