What is folic acid and why is it so important during pregnancy?
Folic acid is a type of B-complex vitamin that every cell in your body needs for its normal growth and development. Folic acid is important for DNA synthesis and therefore it is needed for the growth and development and tissue formation.
Many studies have shown that women who consumed 400 µg (0.4 mg) of folic acid per day just before getting pregnant and during early pregnancy, reduced their baby’s chance of having:
- Birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (neural tube defect) by up to 70%
- Heart defects
- Birth defects of mouth such as cleft palate and lip
When should folic acid be taken?
About one-fourth pregnancies in India are unplanned/unintended. Neural tube defects can occur during the first 28 days of pregnancy, typically
before even a woman realises that she is pregnant.
Folic acid can protect against these defects only if taken before you conceive or during early pregnancy. Hence, all women of child-bearing age should ideally take folic acid as you may not know that you are pregnant in early stages of pregnancy.
Can’t I get folic acid from my regular diet?
Some foods can provide you folate which is a different form of folic acid. However, your diet cannot fulfill the requirements needed for its protective role during pregnancy. So, make sure that you take your folic acid supplements even if you boost your diet with these foods.