Pregnancy and pre-natal vitamins are the two factors that go hand in hand. While the journey through pregnancy is possibly one of the best experiences for every would be mother, there is nothing more they want than to actually ensure the safety and the well being of their baby. The intake of folic acid before pregnancy is one step ahead to that road.
Often termed as the “superfood of pregnancy”, folic acid is the synthetic form of Vitamin B9 which plays a crucial role in the development of the fetus during the initial days of the pregnancy. The consumption of this specific Vitamin is a must which is prescribed by every gynecologist to help ensure that the body grows healthy and strong and without any kind of deformities or congenital issues.
If you are here wondering about the folic acid benefits before pregnancy, this article is just the one you need to glance through. Swipe up and read through why the folate is considered as one of the most important pre-natal vitamins in the list of other possible vitamins and minerals administered to a pregnant woman.
What is Folic Acid?
Before we jump straight into explaining the common benefits of taking folic acid before pregnancy, we need to walk ourselves through the common agenda of what it actually is.
Folic Acid, otherwise classified under the categorization of Folate, is the synthetic form of Vitamin B9. These play a very significant role in the overall development as well as maintenance of the cells along with that of DNA and RNA.
While you may be wondering how this specific form of Vitamin B is given such a high amount of importance before the unprecedented pregnancy, there are suitable reasons for the same. They have a key role in the prevention of any kind of imposed damage on the DNA or even on prohibiting the possible mutation in the DNA strands which often times end up causing gene alterations, thus resulting in congenital health ailments in the newborn baby.
This is one of those vitamins that are sourced in surplus quantities in the majority of the food that we eat, be it in the leafy vegetables or even the whole grains. Extended supplementation of folic acid helps contribute to bettered heart health and overall well being while the deficiency of folic acid in the body confers to weakness and anemia.
Why Should You Take Folic Acid Before Pregnancy?
As mentioned before, folic acid plays a pivotal role in contributing to cell division as well as the replication of the DNA in the fetus. What many people tend to not understand for a fact is that the first twelve weeks of the pregnancy is what tends to be the ride or die when it comes to the proper development of the fetus.
This is sometimes where the baby starts developing their brain, as well as their nervous system, start developing and maturing. While many pregnant mothers tend to be oblivious of the fact too early in their pregnancy, it is possibly that you miss out on the salient requirement of this specific Vitamin for your body, especially during the time of the pregnancy.
Folic acid pre-pregnancy ensures to help build the baby strong and healthy. The deficiency of the Vitamin B9 (R) tends to be the reason behind some of the ghastly neural tube defects like that of Spina Bifida. In a condition like this, there is a possibility of the protective covering around the spinal cord to not develop properly, which ends up leaving a gap in the area of the spinal cord. Conditions like these often tend to leave behind a chronic problem for after the baby is born.
If you are having a planned pregnancy, it is always thus advised to start consuming folic acid at least 3 months before the pregnancy and then 3 months following that. While this is a good possibility in planned pregnancy, for unplanned pregnancy, it is often hard to follow the folic acid intake before pregnancy in that case, but nevertheless, ensure that you consume this essential pre-natal vitamin religiously for the first three months of the pregnancy for the healthy growth of the fetus.
Benefits of Folic Acid Before Pregnancy
Taking folic acid before pregnancy has its fair share of contributions to ensuring the proper growth and development of the fetus. This specific vitamin is beneficial in keeping a fair share of a congenital anomaly at bay like that of anencephaly and Spina bifida. These are the kinds of setbacks that can inflict major drawbacks to a child’s normal development process.
In order to highlight the importance of folic acid before pregnancy, we have mentioned some of the common and essential benefits of folic acid that not many people are aware of.
Check Out the Most Popular Self Care Tips of Folic Acid for Pregnancy
1. Prevention of Neural Tube Defects
Neural Tube defect is one of the most prominent side effects of lack of folic acid before and during pregnancy. If you aren’t aware of what this term entails, it is commonly characterized by the birth defects concerning the baby’s brain, spine or spinal cord. These kinds of defects take shape right in the first month of conception, even before a mother is aware of its possibility.
Folic Acid plays a pivotal role in the prevention of these kinds of problems in the fetus and boosts the development of the brain as well as the spinal cord. The folic acid intake before pregnancy ensures instilling the process of proper development to prevent the congenital anomalies like Spina Bifida, Anencephaly as well as Encephalocele.
1. Spina Bifida
This is one of the most common forms of NTD which is characterized by the gaping holes that are left on by because the vertebrae not closing completely to encase the spinal cord. In such cases, the spinal cord tends to stick out of the spine. Some of the common health ailments related to this specific NTD include paralysis in the legs or even the involuntary urination and defecation. Some cases of Spina Bifida are treatable while the majority of them aren’t.
The neural tube is also responsible for the development of the brain in the fetus. When the mother doesn’t have much folic acid before pregnancy, chances are that the upper part of the neural tube, which is designated for the brain formation, doesn’t close completely. Children who suffer from this have very low life expectancy because of the fact that they miss around 80% or so of their brain.
Encephalocele is yet another form of neural tube defect which affects around 375 babies every year in the United States of America. This is characterized by the sac that contains the protective membrane of the brain tends to poke out through an opening in the skull. Babies with Encephalocele often undergo a surgery after their birth to push the brain back into the skull and sealing the opening.
2. Prevention of Autism
Study has shown that the consumption of folic acid before getting pregnant can actually help prevent the possibility of autism spectrum disorders in the baby. While the previously suggested reviews and studies were not very conclusive of the possible relation between the maternal folic acid consumption and the possible prevention of the autism in babies, a later study (R) helped conclude all the assumptions.
The study concluded stating that there was a reduced rate of autism symptoms in babies whose mothers were administered with folic acid pre-pregnancy in comparison to the ones who weren’t.
But, it is also necessary to ensure that the levels of consumption don’t exceed the permissible levels because of the fact that the same can inflict negative impacts rather than positive ones.
3. Avoid Premature Birth
Premature birth has become very common but with this comes an array of problems that not many expectant parents think of. The lack of folic acid in the body is one of the primary reasons behind pre-mature labour and delivery. While unplanned pregnancy is very common, the lack of folic acid shouldn’t be. If you are of childbearing age and have a distant notion of bearing a child in the future, make sure to include the surplus amount of Vitamin B9 in the diet.
Prevention of premature birth is possibly one of the most common folic acid benefits before pregnancy.
4. Overall Fetal Growth and Development
The presence of folic acid in the bloodstream of a pregnant mother is beneficial primarily because of the fact that it contributes to the rapid growth and development of the placenta as well as the fetus inside it. The nutrition from the folic acid helps in aiding the proper production of the DNA as well as the salient cell division in the fetus for its persistent growth and development.
The deficiency of folic acid before and during pregnancy (R) often times ends up restricting the developmental process of the fetus.
5. Reduced Risks of Cleft Lip Palate
Yet another folic acid intake before pregnancy lies in its ability in the prevention of the condition of cleft lip palate in the newborn babies. While there have been consistent findings concerning the influence of folic acid on the formation of orofacial cleft lip palate, the reason behind the same has been very inconsistent.
With that being said, the reports and conclusions of the conducted studies generally confirm that the deficiency of folic acid (R) could be a very potent factor in the condition of cleft lip in a newborn.
6. Lowered Risks of Miscarriage
One of the most common side effects of lack of proper levels of folic acid in the body is found to result in miscarriage or natural abortion which is definitely not something anyone wishes to experience during their pregnancy. The increased levels of the homocysteine levels in the blood are often correlated as the possible reason behind the miscarriage.
The proper levels of folic acid in the body during pregnancy ensures to keep the levels of homocysteine in check as well which helps keep the baby safe and ensure a secure pregnancy without any kind of abrasions.
7. Prevention of Anemia
Fetal anemia is one of the most signified side effects of folic acid deficiency during pregnancy. The consumption of folic acid helps in the healthy production of red blood cells in the fetus which is definitely helpful in keeping the signs and symptoms of anemia at bay.
Folic Acid Foods Before Pregnancy
While the doctor is definitely going to prescribe pre-natal vitamins after they find out you are pregnant, it is very necessary that an expectant mother be on a diet including a surplus amount of Vitamin B9 or folic acid. This helps in ensuring that they are at least supplied with the necessary nutrition even before they are aware of the fact that they are pregnant.
Some of the common food variants that are loaded with a good quantity of folic acid include:
Let us start this with the vegetables that are rich in folic acid that one should include in their daily diet to enjoy its amazing benefits. Some of the folic acid rich vegetables include:
- Mustard Greens
- Baby Carrot
- Lady Finger
- Green Pepper
- Fenugreek leaves
Next in line with the food sources of folic acid are the nutritious fruits. Some of the fruits that are can make up for the requirement of folic acid before pregnancy include:
- Raspberries and Strawberries
If fruits and vegetables are not something you are really fond of, try out these nuts, which are equally rich in an amazing concentration of folic acid. Some of the nuts rich in folic acid include:
- Sunflower seeds
- Cashew nuts
- Sesame seeds
Even the grains make up for your body’s requirement of folic acid before pregnant. Some of the common variants of grains that are rich in folic acid include:
- Brown Rice
- Whole Grain Flour
These are not just beneficial for contributing to the fetus with its growth and development, it also helps provide with sustained energy to the mother during pregnancy which is an added bonus.
Walking past the grains, let us move on to the common legumes that help instill good amount of folic acid pre-pregnancy in the body. Some of the legumes which are considered good sources of folic acid include:
- Kidney beans
- Wheat germ
- Soya bean
It is necessary to know that these foods that are rich in folic acid do not work as an alternative to the supplements. They contribute a sparing amount of folic acid to the body that is considerably good but not good enough. For pregnancy, make sure that these foods are consumed along with the supplements for enhances benefits to the fetus.
How Much Folic Acid Before Pregnancy?
The popular American Academy of Pediatrics highly recommends all the women of childbearing age to indulge in the regular intake of folic acid as a part of their diet. The main reason behind the same is because the same is very crucial before as well as during the days of pregnancy for the proper development of the fetus followed by a successful delivery.
In order to make it easier, we have put all the information concerning the dosage of folic acid in a tabular form for you to be well informed about the effective dosage that every expectant mother needs to consume.
|Sl. No.||Time of the pregnancy|
|1.||Trying to conceive till 12 weeks of conception||400 mcv|
|2.||Four to nine months of pregnancy||500 mcg|
|3.||During Breastfeeding||600 mcg|
|4.||Suffering from conditions like epilepsy, diabetes, other health disorders, and genetic disorders.||Consult a doctor for a higher prescription of the dosage.|
Side Effects of Folic Acid Before Pregnancy
Much like every other vitamin or mineral, even the excess consumption of folic acid can contribute to a number of underlying side effects that majority of us are not even aware of. If you have been consuming folic acid before pregnancy, it is necessary to ensure that the levels are maintained in the permissible amounts and not exceeded subpar.
Some of the common side effects of higher doses of folic acid include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Sleeping disorders
- Behavioural changes
- Sour stomach
Folic acid before pregnancy and even throughout the entirety of the pregnancy term is a must. With the crucial benefits of it in the overall growth and development of the fetus, it is necessary to ensure that one consumes the correct amounts of folic acid without actually taking this for granted. The deficiency of folic acid can actually instill very severe health ailments which can easily be avoided by consuming folic acid pre-pregnancy.