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Folic acid: its importance in early pregnancy Folic acid: its importance in early pregnancy

Folic acid: its importance in early pregnancy

The first thing that a woman does after she discovers that she is pregnant is starting to take extra care of her body and what is going into it in order to ensure the good health of her baby!

You can be sure that the first thing your doctor will do is make sure that you are getting enough amounts of folic acid, especially during your first trimester.

Folic acid is needed for the normal development of your baby. It can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. These birth defects are called neural tube defects or NTDs; women need to take folic acid every day not only starting in the first trimester but even before they become pregnant to help prevent NTDs.

Why before pregnancy…

Taking folic acid before pregnancy will help prevent brain and spine defects in the baby that may occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy often before the woman knows she’s pregnant. That’s why, even when you are not planning to have a baby, and you are at a child-bearing age, it is better to consume foods rich in folic acid daily (or consult your doctor for a folic acid supplement). Folic acid also helps to prevent other birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate and some heart defects as well.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a B vitamin used in our bodies (especially pregnant) to make new cells. Scientists are not sure how folic acid works to prevent birth defects, but they know that it is needed for making the cells that will form a baby’s brain, spine, organs, skin and bones.

The recommended intake of folic acid for females is:

  • Less than 19 years       400 mg/day
  • Pregnant                       600 mg/day
  • Breast feeding              500 mg/day

How to get the recommended amount of folic acid?

In addition to the supplements your doctor may prescribe, here is a simple way to make sure you are getting enough of folic acid:

Have a bowl of fortified breakfast cereal, and enrich your diet with fresh fruits like oranges and melons, vegetables especially green leafy vegetables, broccoli, artichoke etc, nuts and seeds like peanuts and sesame, and legumes like lentils, black beans etc.

Folic acid in rich food sources

Food source Folic acid amount in mg
Lentils (one cup cooked) 358
Sunflower seeds (one cup) 300
Spinach (one cup cooked) 262
Black beans (one cup cooked) 256
Peanuts (one cup) 212
Whole wheat cereal Nestlé FITNESS® (40 g) 136
Fresh orange juice (one cup) 109
Asparagus (half a cup canned) 98
Broccoli (one cup cooked) 78


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