Take folic acid before pregnancy to prevent birth defects

Folic Acid is An Important Vitamin

Folic acid is a vitamin found in many foods and multivitamin supplements. It’s especially important for women who could become pregnant because folic acid can help prevent birth defects.

Begin Each Day with Folic Acid

There are three ways women can get enough folic acid. They can choose to:

Take a vitamin supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, or
Eat a fortified breakfast cereal daily which contains 100% of the recommended daily anount of folic acid (400 micrograms).
In addition, increase consumption of foods fortified with folic acid (e.g., “enriched” cereal, bread, rice, pasta and other grain products) in addition to consuming food folate from a varied diet (e.g., orange juice and green vegetables).
Folic Acid is Good for All Ages

No matter what your age, foods rich in folic acid are good for you.

Even young girls should try to get enough folic acid every day. That way, when you’re older and planning to become a mother, folic acid will already be a part of your diet.

Folic Acid Can Help Prevent Birth Defects

All women need folic acid because it works best for you and your baby early in the first month of pregnancy, a time when you may not even know you’re pregnant. Continued use of folic acid after the first month of pregnancy, and throughout your life, ensures the future good health of you and your family.

Folic acid can reduce certain birth defects of the brain and spinal cord by more than 70 percent. These birth defects are called neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs happen when the spinal cord fails to close properly.

The most common neural tube defect is spina bifida. This occurs when part of the baby’s spinal cord remains outside the body. The baby may have paralyzed legs and, later, may develop bladder and bowel control problems. The most serious neural tube defect is anencephaly. The baby is born without part of its skull and brain, and eventually dies.

Folic acid also may help lower your chances of getting heart disease and some types of cancers. It may help protect you from having a stroke, as well.

Who Needs Extra Folic Acid?

All women need folic acid, especially women who have had babies with NTDs and want to become pregnant again. If you have had a baby with an NTD, talk with your doctor before planning your next pregnancy. He or she may prescribe a vitamin that contains a higher dose (4 mg) of folic acid.

Getting Folic Acid from Vitamins

Taking a daily multivitamin that has 0.4 mg of folic acid is another way of getting the recommended amount.

However, avoid taking more than one multivitamin per day. Too much of the other vitamins, especially vitamin A, could cause serious health problems.

Don’t be Confused by Labels

Read food and vitamin labels carefully to be sure you’re getting enough folic acid. On the labels, folic acid is also called “folate.” The amount of folic acid or folate in a vitamin or food may be given as either 400 micrograms or 0.4 mg. They are the same amounts.

Foods With Folic Acid

  • Enriched Breads and Grains
  • Fortified Cereals
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Beans and Peas
  • Protein Foods

Source: health.ny


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