The benefits of folic acid in pregnancy

Folic Acid in pregnancy

Even though folic acid is found in foods like liver, leafy green vegetables and whole wheat bread, the Government still recommends that all women thinking about having a baby start taking folic acid supplements three months before trying to conceive.


our doctor can prescribe them to you, or they are sold at most pharmacies. They come in 400 microgram capsules, which should be taken once a day, or if you don’t like taking tablets, a folic acid liquid drink is also available.

What is folic acid exactly?

Folic acid is sometimes called folate and is a B Vitamin mostly found in vegetables like spinach, kale and even orange juice! Because studies have shown that they can cut the incidence of your baby developing a neural tube defect by up to 72 per cent, all women thinking about having a baby and after conception are advised to take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Health experts advise women to start taking folic acid one month prior to conception and three months afterwards.

What are the benefits?

Having your babies close together may cause an increased risk in vitamin and mineral deficiencies so it’s important to start taking folic acid supplements before falling pregnant again. Studies show that mothers who’ve had one child with a neural defect can lower their risk of having another by 72 percent by taking folic acid supplements.

Typical fods that contain folic acid are:

  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Peas
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Potato
  • Baked beans
  • Citrus and kiwi fruits
  • Fortified breakfast cereals (check the labels)
  • Some breads (again check the labels)
  • Lentils

If you are eating more of these foods and taking the recommended daily dose of folic acid you should be getting more than enough for your baby.

Other multi vitamins:

  • Iron - Your body needs iron to make haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying part of the red blood cells) During pregnancy the amount of blood expands in your body so that you have 50 percent more than normal. You need to keep up your intake of iron to support the extra amount of blood in your body, so add iron-rich foods like kidneys, fish, egg yolks, red meat, cereals, molasses, apricots and haricot beans into your diet.
  • Calcium - Your baby’s bones begin to form between four to six weeks and calcium helps to make them strong. If your developing baby doesn’t get enough nutrients it will show no mercy and take your supply, leaving you calcium deficient. Make sure you’re eating plenty of dairy products, leafy green vegetables, soya, broccoli and any fish containing bones like sardines.
  • Other antenatal supplements

If you eat a good diet, you’ll probably be getting enough nutrients and vitamins from your foods. Specific pregnancy multivitamins are available if you think you need them (if you are vegetarian or suffer from bad morning sickness) but it’s best to discuss with your doctor first and try to stick to a healthy balanced diet.

The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.


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