Folic Acid


Folic Acid during Pregnancy

By Jessica R. Marie, RD

Folic acid, or folate, is a B-vitamin found in certain fruits, vegetables, and grain foods. Folate is especially important before and during pregnancy to reduce the risk of serious birth defects that affect the brain and spinal cord. Two major NTDs are spina bifida and anencephaly. Babies with spina bifida have a defect in their spinal column causing them to have varying degrees of handicap. Babies with anencephaly never develop a brain and do not survive.

The CDC estimates that up to 70% NTDs could be prevented by folic acid. Research has also found that adequate intake of folic acid may also prevent against cleft lip palate, preeclampsia, premature birth, low birth weight, and miscarriage.

How much folic acid do I need?

NTDs occur during the early weeks of pregnancy, often before you even know you’re pregnant. For this reason, the government recommends that all women of child-bearing age consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day before and during pregnancy. Many OBs, however, recommend up to 1,000 micrograms of folic acid per day during pregnancy.

Here are some good sources of folate and folic acid:

Serving size Micrograms
S7 Prenatal Vitamin Drink Mix 2 pouches/day 800
Black eyed peas ½ cup 105
Some breakfast cereals, fortified with folic acid ¾ cup 100
Spinach, frozen, cooked boiled ½ cup 100
Enriched white rice ½ cup 65
Orange juice ¼ cup 70
  • Eat whole grain and enriched grain foods – food manufacturers are required by the FDA to add folic acid to enriched grain products.
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – folate is found naturally in plant foods like dark, leafy vegetables, asparagus, oranges, broccoli, and brussel sprouts.
  • Eat beans and legumes- Lentils, chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans are all good sources of folate.
  • Take a pre-natal vitamin or other supplement containing folic acid every day. Make sure it contains at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.

What other factors may cause NTDs besides improper nutrition?

Other factors can contribute to NTDs such as genetics, some antiseizure medications, maternal diabetes, obesity during pregnancy, going into a very hot Jacuzzi during the early weeks of pregnancy, and having previously had a child with a NTD. Some of these factors can not be changed by the mother but diet is one that is easily controlled. Simply taking care of yourself by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grain and enriched wheat foods, and taking a folic acid supplement or a pre-natal vitamin can make a huge impact on the outcome of your pregnancy.

By Jessica R. Marie, nutritionist

References: How Folate Can Help Prevent Birth Defects by Paula Kurtzweil

* The comments contained herein are no substitution for regular medical care from a qualified M.D. or provider. The creator of this website assumes no responsibility for information used in lieu of seeking help from a medical doctor. Any person who is ill needs to IMMEDIATELY contact their doctor and seek personal medical services.

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