Extra supplements of folate or folic acid are recommended for all women planning to become pregnant and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
What is folate / folic acid?
Folate is a vitamin B (vitamin B9) needed for the body to function normally. Only very small quantities are needed. It is estimated that adults need about 300 micrograms (1 microgram = 1 millionth of a gram) per day. Pregnant women need at least 400 micrograms per day and breastfeeding women need even 500 micrograms per day. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used to treat folate deficiency.
Normally, the need is met with normal healthy diet. Spinach and other green leafy vegetables, broccoli and other cabbages, legumes, film milk, whole grains, fruits like orange, and intestinal foods contain a lot of folate. Lack of folate is relatively uncommon and occurs first and foremost in people with poor diet or in people with intestinal disorders that cause a deterioration in nutritional intake.
In adults who are deficient in folic acid, this primarily leads to anemia (low blood value), although they do not have iron deficiency, and the symptoms that occur – fatigue, dizziness, impaired physical performance, palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain upon exertion – come from anemia.
Why is extra folate / folic acid needed during pregnancy?
The need for folate increases to 400 micrograms during pregnancy. Research has shown that the congenital serious disease of the spinal cord (myelomeningocele / spina bifida cystica) is associated with a low folate level in the mother. Research has shown that if women regularly take supplements of folic acid in connection with pregnancy, this leads to a clear decrease in the incidence of spinal cord hernia. Although the disease is rare, supplementation of folic acid before and during the first part of pregnancy is recommended as standard treatment worldwide. It is not harmful to consume more than the daily need for folic acid during periods of one’s life. The treatment is cheap and does not cause any side effects. Previous concerns about increased risk of cancer in connection with folate / folic acid treatment have not been confirmed in several large studies.
How to take folic acid?
The drug is non-prescription and can be purchased at pharmacies. A tablet, 400 micrograms, is taken daily from the time the woman plans to become pregnant, that is, before conception, even twelve weeks pregnant. In unplanned pregnancies, the folic acid supplement should be taken from the woman’s knowledge of the pregnancy up to and including the pregnancy week twelve. In women who have previously been pregnant with or given birth to a neural tube defect, or women taking certain medicines for epilepsy, higher doses of folic acid per day are recommended, in consultation with the midwife and / or physician.