Folic acid is a vitamin that is very important for the healthy development of a baby. If you are planning to become pregnant it is essential that you make sure you are getting enough folic acid.
What is Folic Acid and why is it important?
Folic acid is from the B Group of vitamins and it is important for everyone. It is responsible for healthy cell growth and development. It is particularly important for a pregnant woman or a woman planning to conceive. Before a woman is aware that she is pregnant her baby’s spinal cord and brain are already being formed. This is why it is so important that there is sufficient folic acid in the woman’s system ahead of conception.
Folic acid helps to prevent potentially serious birth defects which affect the spinal cord and brain such as spina bifida and anencephaly. Spina bifida result in life-long disability and anencephaly which prevents the proper formation of the baby’s brain and skull is nearly always fatal.
When and how to take folic acid
Women planning to conceive should ideally start taking folic acid at least three months before they conceive and continue to take folic acid until they are twelve weeks pregnant. This is usually at 400 mcg per day taken in the form of a single supplement or as part of a multivitamin suitable for pre-pregnancy and pregnancy. Ask your health care professional when you decide you would like to become pregnant as there are some conditions and certain circumstances which may require you to take a higher dose, but this would be under medical direction only.
Once you are 12 weeks pregnant your baby’s spine will have developed, so you can stop taking folic acid if you choose to. However you can continue to take supplements which include folic acid after 12 weeks as part of an ante-natal vitamin if you wish to and you may be advised to by your doctor.