Pregnancy is a very crucial time, and taking the right food and nutrients, in the right amount becomes a high priority. Not only the mother, but a whole new person becomes affected by the food choices. Some naturally beneficial foods are deemed as unwanted, during pregnancy, and some new supplements are added on the other hand. It is very important to consult a doctor before taking in anything, for example, a folate supplement.
Besides a lot of folic acid benefits, there are some folic acid side effects as well, that need to be kept in mind.
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For years doctors have been prescribing a definite dose of folic acid for women, and pregnant ladies. It is known to be very beneficial for both the mother and the unborn child. It is also found in the form of folate vitamin naturally. Since there is not much difference in the chemistry of naturally occurring folate and folic acid, they can be used as folate supplements in the diet.
Folic acid deficiency causes a lot of other complications apart from mild fatigue and mouth sores in normal people. It is most common in women, thus a doctor might prescribe folic acid for women, even if they are non-pregnant.
What Is Folic Acid?
As mentioned earlier, a man-made vitamin of the B complex, which participates in the synthesis of nucleic acids inside the cell, which is what DNA is made of. Folate vitamin also has its role in tissue growth and brain development. There are several other folic acid benefits, such as—
‣ hair growth treatment measures
‣ increasing chances of fertility in both men and women
‣ curing depression
‣ for gum infections
‣ increase the firmness of skin
‣ reducing chances of heart attacks
‣ helps in digestion, etc.
Folic Acid Benefits For Pregnant Ladies: What Does It Do?
Prescribing folic acid during pregnancy has become an integral part of pregnancy diets. It is available in the form of over-the-counter tablets in measured doses. What exactly is the benefit of folic acid tablets for pregnant ladies?
1. Brain Development
Folate vitamin taken during pregnancy participates in the neural canal formation of the baby, i.e., baby’s brain and spinal cord formation that happens during the first few months of pregnancy. Folic acid allows the neural canal to close properly, thus preventing birth defects such as,
‣ Anencephaly (incomplete neural tube formation)
‣ Spina bifida (incomplete development of the vertebral column and spinal cord)
2. Lowers The Chances Of Miscarriage
Folic acid, when taken in proper doses, is known to stabilize the pregnancy, and prevent any chances of miscarriage, even if you have a history of miscarriages in earlier pregnancies.
3. Reduces The Chance Of Pre-Term Delivery
Since folate supplements are known to stabilize the pregnancy, it ensures that the entire gestation (total pregnancy period) is completed, before the baby is ready to come out through the birth canal. This ensures proper development and health of the newborn.
[Read: Folic Acid while Pregnant]
4. Helps In Placenta Formation
Folic acid during pregnancy is known to form red blood cells and thus helps the uterus with more amount of blood that is required to form the placenta, thus ensuring proper nutrition for the baby.
5. Increases Chances Of Conception
Both men and women should take folate supplements because folic acid deficiency is known to reduce the chances of getting pregnant. It increases sperm motility in men, which in turn increases the chances of fertilization in women.
6. Reduces Blood Pressure
Folic acid, when taken in proper doses, dilates blood vessels, thus reducing the pressure on the heart. During pregnancy, it is very important to have your blood pressure under control, or the mother can have a stroke due to all the stress on her heart.
7. Forms New Blood Cells
Since folic acid is known to take part in cell division, it also produces new blood cells. Folic acid during pregnancy, supplements the extra requirements of blood, both in the mother and the foetus.
8. Used To Treat Anaemia
Folic acid in combination with some other drugs is used to treat pernicious anaemia. Doctors prescribe folic acid for pregnancy in the view to compensate for anaemia that develops in all pregnant women. Pregnant women with already known anaemic conditions might need higher folic acid doses.
9. Alleviates Depression
Folic acid is quite active in the brain. People suffering from clinical depression have been diagnosed with low folate vitamin levels, in a certain study. Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, most women suffer from anxiety, irritability and mild forms of depression.
10. Takes Care Of Other Pregnancy Complications
‣ Various other complications in the newborn, like the ones mentioned below,
‣ Cleft palate
‣ Low birth weight
‣ Poor development
‣ Insufficient or weak immunity
These are all taken care of by folate supplements. Folic acid deficiency increases the chances of all these defects by almost 17%.
Which Food Items Are Rich In Folic Acid?
Naturally occurring sources of folic acid are dark green vegetables and fortified breakfast cereals. Some other sources of folic acid are:
‣ Sweet corn
‣ Citrus fruits (lemons, oranges)
‣ White rice
Folic Acid Side Effects: Are There Any?
Although folic acid has been proved to be a pregnancy saviour, it also has some side effects when taken uncontrollably and in large doses. A doctor should always be consulted before taking folate supplements, to determine the adequate doses.
‣ Abdominal cramps
‣ Nausea and irritability
‣ Gas bloating
‣ Skin reactions and allergies
‣ Seizures (might worsen in people with previous seizure disorders)
‣ Might mask anaemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency and thus delay appropriate treatment
‣ Might increase the risk of heart diseases
‣ Harmful for patients recovering from angioplasty
‣ Taking high doses of folic acid during pregnancy can cause autism in the newborn
With over 1000 mcg of folic acid taken daily, the risk of lung and prostate cancer increases.
Folic Acid Dosage (Per Day)
Proper doses should always be determined and prescribed under a doctor’s supervision.
‣ 400 mcg for normal male/female
‣ 600 mcg is folic acid pregnancy dose
‣ 500 mcg for a breastfeeding woman
‣ 4mg (4000 mcg) for a woman with an earlier history of an anencephalic foetus
Thus, to conclude we can say that even though taking folate supplement is definitely beneficial for a lot of reasons, folic acid during pregnancy must be taken under a doctor's supervision, with proper knowledge of previous conditions like heart diseases, etc.