Folic acid and pregnancy

Folic acid is the man made version of vitamin B9, which can be found in a number of foods. The vitamin helps the body make healthy red blood cells, and if you are pregnant or trying for a baby, it’s recommended you take folic acid until you’re 12 weeks pregnant. Professor Luciano Nardo, founder of NOW-fertility explains why:

Folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects (NTDs) in a developing embryo. The neural tube is what will eventually become the baby’s brain and spine. If this fails to close completely during embryogenesis (the formation and development of the embryo) it can result in conditions such as spina bifida.  This is a condition when a baby’s spine and spinal cord does not develop properly in the womb, causing a gap in the spine, and anencephaly, a condition where the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. Studies have also suggested that low intake of folic acid during early pregnancy is also associated with an increased risk of cleft lip and palate.

If you are trying for a baby, I would recommend taking folic acid at least 12 weeks before conception. You should aim to take a folic acid supplement containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid from 12 weeks before conception and throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, if you find out you are pregnant and haven’t been taking folic acid, simply start taking it as soon as possible.

Folic acid in foods:

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 in food – folic acid is a synthetic form added to food or taken as a supplement. Folate can be found in:

  • Green vegetables like spinach, kale and broccoli
  • Legumes
  • Oranges
  • Yeast and beef extracts
  • Wheat and other whole grains
  • Fortified cereals

Folate rich meals could include spicy black bean soup, a leafy salad with walnuts, banana pancakes and broccoli flatbread.

If you are planning or are in the early stages of pregnancy, it is best to take a daily folic acid supplement as well as eating foods which are high in folate. Non pregnant adults need 200mg of folate per day. Pregnant women are advised to take at least 400mg of folic acid a day.

Folic acid deficiencies:

Some people are more at risk of being folic acid deficient. They include pregnant and lactating people, those with chronic conditions of the gastrointestinal tract, people following a restricted diet due to medical conditions or weight loss regimes and those with alcohol dependence.

Signs you are folic acid deficient include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Sore tongue
  • Premature greying of the hair
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
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NOW-fertility will coordinate the whole treatment cycle and will only associate with the best providers worldwide, made up of licensed Centres of Excellence (with above national average fertility success rates) for assisted conception treatment and outstanding Satellite Clinics for diagnostic and monitoring investigations.  This infrastructure will make the fertility journey considerable quicker, whilst being more tailored, accessible and affordable for patients.

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