If you’re trying to conceive, either on your own or through fertility treatment, there is no doubt that taking the vitamin Folic acid is a great place to start. But why? Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia (RMA of PHL) Dr. Jackie Gutmann tells you everything you need to know about this super-vitamin.
WHY IS FOLIC ACID IMPORTANT IN A HEALTHY PREGNANCY?
Folic acid is a B-vitamin. Our bodies use folic acid to make new cells that comprise our skin, hair and nails. This cell-supporting vitamin is important for babies as they grow, too. Just like adults, folic acid aids in the development of a baby’s nervous system and cellular growth. Folic acid reduces the risk of cleft lip / palate and neural tube defects (NTDs), which can occur in the brain (anencephaly) and/or spine (spina bifida). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least half of the 300,000 cases of neural tube defects around the world each year can be prevented by taking folic acid.
WHEN SHOULD YOU START TAKING FOLIC ACID?
Knowing when to take folic acid, and in what quantity, will ensure you are starting your fertility journey on the best possible foot. The CDC urges women to take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid every day one month prior to trying to conceive. Once pregnant, a woman should increase her folic acid intake to 500 mcg, and women who plan to breastfeed should increase their intake 600 mcg. Women should always consult their doctor about the exact amount of folic acid to take, as recommendations will vary.
I WANT TO GET FOLIC ACID THROUGH MY DIET INSTEAD?
Taking a prenatal vitamin is the best way to ensure you are getting enough folic acid on your fertility journey, but you can also add a diet source to your intake, as well. Foods like leafy green vegetables including spinach, kale and arugula are rich in folic acid. Legumes are another great source of folic acid which include beans, peas and lentils. Folic acid can also be found in citrus juices, asparagus, beets and nuts. And don’t worry – there is no such thing as too much folic acid, both supplement and dietary intake combined.
Folic acid is an essential nutrient that every woman should take when planning to get pregnant. So kick off your day with a green smoothie, freshly squeezed orange juice, or a handful of almonds. You’ll be glad you did!