Folic acid, also referred to as vitamin B-9 or folate, is an essential for the health of a developing baby. Pregnant women need additional amounts of folic acid. A pregnant woman needs 600 micrograms of folic acid daily, and may get the nutrient from a combination of diet and supplements. Prenatal vitamins contain folic acid and the vitamin is available as a separate supplement for women taking a regular multivitamin.
Importance of Folic Acid
Folic acid helps prevent birth defects involving the brain and spinal cord, such as anencephaly or spina bifida. Anencephaly is condition that occurs when a baby’s brain does not develop fully. These babies usually die shortly after birth or are stillborn. Spina bifida is a condition that occurs when the spinal cord of a baby remains exposed to the outside because the spinal column does not close like normal. This condition requires multiple surgeries and individuals suffering from spina bifida may experience lifelong medical disabilities. The nutrient may also protect the mother from contracting cancer or suffering from a stroke while pregnant, according to the March of Dimes. Additional roles of folic acid include developing DNA, cellular growth and tissue formation.
Folic Acid in Prenatal Vitamins
Many prenatal vitamins contain folic acid. A common dosage of folic acid in a prenatal vitamin varies between 400 and 1,000 micrograms. Taking prenatal vitamins for at least three months before getting pregnant may also help reduce the risk of birth defects. Prenatal vitamins with folic acid are available with a prescription and over-the-counter. Women who experience excessive nausea from prenatal vitamins, commonly caused by increased amounts of iron, may want to speak with their health care provider about taking a regular multivitamin along with supplemental folic acid instead.
Dietary Sources of Folic Acid
In addition to taking a vitamin with folic acid, a woman should eat foods high in folic acid. Foods with folic acid include leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, and citrus fruit. Cooking foods with folic acid may destroy the nutrient, so eating vegetables raw provides the most folate. Manufacturers often add folic acid to foods such as breads and breakfast cereals.
Excessive Folic Acid
Prenatal vitamins often contain more folic acid than a regular multivitamin. People taking prenatal vitamins unnecessarily will not usually experience any ill effects. , however, a person with a vitamin B-12 deficiency takes excessive amounts of folic acid, the nutrient may mask the B-12 deficiency symptoms. Without early treatment for a B-12 deficiency, a person may experience permanent nerve damage.
- Pregnancy image by Tatyana Gladskih from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.