Importance Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy
Healthy Living

Importance Of Folic Acid During Pregnancy

Elina Dawoodani profile Authored by Elina Dawoodani on 24 Apr 2014 - 17:35.

Several researches have expressed the importance of foilc acid intake during pregnancy. Studies also support the hypothesis that adequate folate consumption in early pregnancy prevents neural tube defects in infants. (ref:1,2)

Folate is also known as Vitamin B9. It is a natural form of water soluble vitamin and known as folic acid in its synthetic form that is used in fortified food and as supplementation. Folate plays important roles in the body, especially in the central nervous system, to synthesize DNA and to act as a cofactor in various biological reactions. It is required for production of red blood cells, cell growth and proliferation. Folic acid can’t be synthesized naturally in the body and therefore consuming food sources rich in folate becomes important.

Pregnancy and Folic acid:

The need for folic acid shoots up during pregnancy because it decreases the risk of congenital malformations, neural tube and heart defects. Sufficient quantities of folic acid in the body prevents from preterm delivery.  It plays an important role in the rapid cell division and growth during pregnancy.

When the requirement of folic acid is not met during pregnancy, the following abnormalities may occur:

  • Spina Bifidia: Spina bifida is a congenital disorder which leads to incomplete closure of embryonic neural tube where the child’s spinal cord is not fully formed.
     
  • Anencephaly: Anencephaly is a serious birth defect in which a major portion of brain or skull is absent during embryonic development due to folic acid deficiency.
     
  • Encephalocele: Also known as cranium bifidum is an abnormality in which there are sac like protrusions of the brain at the opening of the skull. This is also a defect that occurs due to improper closure of the neural tube in the embryonic stage of the child development.
     
  • Iniencehaly: It is a serious neural defect which results in extreme bending of the head to the spine.

Across the globe, there are around 3,000 pregnancies affected by Spina Bifida and Anencephaly every year, which is indeed alarming. (ref:5)

Recommended Supplementation:

Since the requirements during pregnancy are pretty high, there is a joint recommendation by U.S. Public Health Department and CDC that women of childbearing age (i.e. the non-pregnant ones) should consume 400 mcg of folic acid daily (ref: 3) whereas, U. S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Institute of Medicine (IOM) have recommended that pregnant women should consume 600 mcg of folic acid daily throughout pregnancy. (ref:4)

A research study suggests that 50- 70 percent of the neural tube defects could be prevented only if the women took atleast 400 mcg of folic acid, daily, before and during pregnancy. (ref:6)

Foods rich in Folate:

Supplementation alone is not enough, diet also has to be modified and foods rich in folate have to be consumed during this period.

Below is a list of different types of food containing highest amount of folate:

  • Lentils
  • Pinto beans and kidney beans (Rajmah)
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Black beans
  • Turnip greens
  • Broccoli
  • Lettuce
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges

References:       

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.