Why is Folic Acid Supplementation Necessary?

for Expectant Mothers...

by Nurçin Metingil

What do you expect when you are expecting? Joyful celebrations, balloons, gifts, cute outfits, and everything… No, we know your concerns are about more than those. Once you know that you will welcome the new member of your family soon, the primary thing you are obsessed with is health. You are careful about what you eat, how you lie down, and things you should follow or avoid. You know what you do as a family will affect the baby. So, you visit the doctor and the first thing you hear is folic acid. So, what’s the deal in folic acid supplementation?  

Why is folic acid supplementation important? 

You may get frightened by the name, but it is simply a vitamin, actually vitamin B. We need to take it daily to produce new cells. Thus, we can have nicer skin, healthier hair and nails. So, it is extra important for pregnant people to take folic acid supplementation since they are nourishing a new life form inside them. That life needs to be supported as well as the mother. That’s why they share everything once the eggs are fertilized.

To prevent some downfalls of the pregnancy, mothers must follow some diets. Accordingly, these diets may cause decreases in vitamin and mineral intake. Folate deficiency is a real threat to healthy pregnancy since it may result in neural tube defects, which means anomalies in baby growth occur because of the brain and spinal cord development malfunctions.

What is folic acid? 

Yes, we need it. But what is folic acid? It is a folate-based synthetically formed vitamin and known as pteroylglutamic acid. It is a water-soluble supplement. Let’s take a break here. In fact, there is a common misunderstanding about folic acid and folate. They are sometimes used interchangeably. However, folate is a kind of vitamin B that you can reach naturally in food such as fruits and vegetables. That’s to say; they are the two different forms of vitamin B9. 

Folic Acid Intake

Normally, it is recommended that people take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily to prevent folate deficiency symptoms. Folate intake dosage for children may differ according to their age range. 

Age & Stages Daily Folate Intake
newborns 65 micrograms 
infants 80 micrograms 
toddlers 150 micrograms
preschoolars 200 micrograms
grandschoolers 300 micrograms
teens 400 micrograms

The baby growing inside causes an increase in the daily need for folate at the rate of %50. Folic acid dosage becomes 600 µg in a day during pregnancy. For those with tendencies for neural tube defects, it can be recommended to take up to 800 µg in a day. Even though you feed yourself with foods high in folate, it is not enough because of the increased requirement of it in pregnancy.

It would be better if you were careful of taking too much of it. Because too much folic acid during pregnancy may be harmful considering different nutrition intake standards of people. A study shows that there may be some side effects of folate therapy. Considering pharmacological doses, it may cause overactivity, increases at the level of arousal, sleeplessness, and/or rarely hypomania. 

Which food has the highest folic acid? Folate comes from the word folium in Latin, which means green leaf. So, spoiler alert! The highest intake you can get from this little pal is from leafy green vegetables. Other choices should be legumes, nuts, tropical foods, etc.

Folic Acid Supplementation before and during Pregnancy

It is highly recommended to make a visit to a doctor’s office regularly when you are pregnant. Yes, it is known by all. Yet, how about going there before pregnancy? Contrary to popular opinion, it is crucial to take folic acid before pregnancy. With the developments in the field, experts are able to check your medical background and some genetic tendencies to prevent you from experiencing unhealthy pregnancy or having a child with some disabilities.

Folate Intake Folic acid dose

They can proceed with treatment if there is a possibility for any problem you may come across during the process. Similarly, folate deficiency can be detected during your visit to the doctor (with your partner, of course) before getting pregnant. Even though you carry no risk at this point, it may be medically advised for you to take some folic acid tablet while trying to have one. You may wonder when to start taking folic acid. It is essential for sexually active people of childbearing age.

Neural Tube Defects

For the baby

While growing inside the womb, the baby, a foetus, can experience some anomalies because of genetic or environmental factors. In the first four weeks of the pregnancy, the baby’s neural tube is developed, which leads to serious lifelong malformations or the death of the newborn. Unfortunately, only %8 of the planned pregnancies is supported by the folate deficiency treatment. Maternal outcomes in the research on the subject show no evidence yet in that folic acid intake before pregnancy does affect the risk of miscarriages. But the good news is, the research surely indicates that folic acid supplementation for those with neural-tube defects background in previous pregnancies reduces the risks by two of third. 

facts on folic acid

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