If you’re in the process of trying to get pregnant or are currently pregnant, one thing is for sure. Maternal health and fetal health go hand in hand. One of the most important things that a woman can do for her unborn child is to make sure she takes her folic acid. Folic acid can help to prevent serious birth defects in our children.
Folic acid, also known as folate, comes from many different foods including leafy green vegetables like the popular kale and spinach. It can also be found in orange juice and grains.
A healthy dose of folic acid can help prevent and reduce the risk of babies being born with neural tube defects – serious birth defects involving incomplete development of the brain, spine or spinal cord.
Varying doses of folic acid are prescribed for different people and their health statuses.
Healthy patients with no medical issues require a well-balanced diet full of folate-rich foods and daily supplementation with a multivitamin with folic acid (0.4–1.0 mg) for at least two to three months before conception, throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period (4–6 weeks and as long as breastfeeding continues).
Patients who need a higher dose of folic acid (5mg) are:
- Patients with health risks, including epilepsy, insulin-dependent diabetes and obesity (Body Mass Index [BMI] greater than 35);
- Those who have a family history of neural tube defects;
- People belonging to a high-risk ethnic group, e.g. Sikhs require an increased dietary intake of folate-rich foods and daily supplementation with multivitamins with 5 mg of folic acid.
Patients who require a higher dose of folate should consume the vitamin at least three months before conception and continue its intake throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period.
In a nutshell, folic acid is a mandatory ingredient in the recipe of pregnancy.