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Folic acid

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The benefits of taking folic acid during pregnancy.

In recent years the incidents of NTD’s (Neural Tube Defects) have dropped thanks to better public awareness of the condition, this has been helped due to screenings and recommendations on taking folic acid during pregnancy.

The defects include Spina Bifida and Anencephaly, this is where the brain doesn’t form properly or is partially missing. Children that do survive are often left paralysed for life. NTD’s are hugely preventable if pregnant women take folic acid before and during their pregnancy.

Sadly not all women are getting the message because a staggering 44% of women admitted to not taking a single folic acid supplement in the first 3 months prior to falling pregnant.

What is folic acid? – It is also known as folate, which is a vitamin B, it aids in cell production and division including the production of the red blood cells. It can be found in foods such as grain products and fortified cereals.

What are the benefits?

According to the NHS, folic acid plays an important role in the development of a healthy foetus and significantly reduces the risk of NTD’s such as Spina Bifida. Without the presence of folic acid the neural tube may not close properly which causes Spina Bifida, this is when fluid passes through and fills the spine.

Research shows that taking folic acid prior to falling pregnant and during the pregnancy may also protect against other birth defects such as:

  1. Cleft lip and palate. Women who took at least 400mcg (micrograms) of folic acid a day and ate healthily were at lower risk of carrying a child with cleft lip or palate.
  2. Premature birth a US study found that women who took folic acid a year before becoming pregnant halved their chances of having a premature baby.
  3. Folic acid not only protects your baby in the womb but it can help keep your heart health.
folic acid

Back in 2010 it was released that folic acid would be the treatment for:

  1. Anaemia – this is because of a lack of folic acid in adults and children
  2. Anaemia from damaged red blood cells (known as sickle cell anaemia)
  3. Anaemia in pregnancy
  4. Anaemia because of alcoholism
  5. Anaemia as a side effect to medicines
  6. Coeliac disease – intolerance to gluten in the diet

When should you start taking folic acid?

It is vital to have folic acid in your system before falling pregnant because the defects occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy, sometime before you even realise you’re pregnant.

Foods that are naturally high in folic acid –

  1. Asparagus
  2. Bananas
  3. Peas
  4. Dried beans
  5. Oranges or orange juice
  6. Peanuts and other nuts
  7. Broccoli and other leafy greens

Folic acid is safe, non-toxic and vital.

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