Irrespective of whether you are trying to conceive or are pregnant, the journey to motherhood is a special time in every woman’s life. It is the time to pay special attention to the mother’s health ensuring a well-balanced diet. A healthy diet is the foundation for a healthy pregnancy.
Prenatal vitamins are every woman’s best companion in the journey to motherhood. Prenatal vitamins with folic acid are loaded with high doses of several essential vitamins, especially folic acid. They help cover any nutritional gap in maternal nutrition.
Continue reading to understand the benefit of taking folic acid supplements in pregnancy
▪ What is folic acid?
▪ Importance of folic acid for pregnant women
▪ Benefits of folic acid
▪ Understanding neural tube defects
▪ Food sources of folic acid
▪ When should I start taking folic acid?
▪ How much folic acid should I take?
▪ Folic acid supplements in pregnancy
▪ Busting Folic acid myths (if any)
Folic Acid is one of the essential B vitamins that your body needs to make healthy new cells.
In its natural form it is called Folate or vitamin B9 (formerly called folacin) and found in many foods, including leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts, beans and other vegetables.Folic acid is the synthetic, man-made form of Folate. You can get it from fortified foods, such as breads, pastas, cereals, supplements and tablets.
We commonly call both forms as Folic Acid.
Folic acid is essential for healthy fetal development. The right folic acid dose in pregnancy prevents neural tube defects (NTD) by 50 percent or more. These NTDs cause major birth defects in the development of the baby’s brain and spine . The lack of folic acid is also associated with low birth weight and preterm delivery
This is the reason Folic acid for pregnancy supplements are routinely prescribed to pregnant women or women planning a pregnancy.
Your doctor will also recommend you to take prenatal vitamins 400 mcg folic acid. These supplements provide your body with the required dose of folic acid for the development of your baby. They ensure that your pregnancy is safe, and the baby is healthy.
If you don’t take folic acid in pregnancy, you may not be able to reap the following benefits
▪ The rapid growth of the placenta and fetus
▪ Healthy fetal growth
▪ Prevents early pregnancy loss (miscarriage) 
▪ Prevents cleft lip and palate
▪ Helps the body produce red blood cells and prevent anaemia
▪ Reduced risk of preeclampsia 
▪ Reduced risk of postnatal depression
▪ A decrease in congenital anomalies like cardiovascular defects and limb defects
You can discontinue folic acid supplements once you reach 12 weeks of pregnancy. Your baby’s spine is fully developed by this time. Continuing them after this period does not cause any harm to the baby.
Neural Tube Defects (NTDS) are birth defects related to the brain and spinal cord of the baby. They occur when the neural tube does not close properly in early fetal development. They take place in the first few weeks of pregnancy – often even before the mother realizes she is pregnant. Unfortunately, there is no cure for neural tube defects.
NTDs are one of the most common birth defects globally. Every year they affect over 300,000 births. 
The incomplete development of the spinal cord or vertebrae. This can cause weakness in the leg muscles and even lead to paralysis in its most severe form.
The incomplete development of the brain, the skull and the scalp. Infants born with anencephaly have a low survival rate of birth. 
Alarming Statistics  : Almost 70 percent of NTDs can be prevented if women consume the recommended folic acid dose in pregnancy.
The sources of folic acid in food include dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, brown rice nuts, beans, citrus fruits, etc. You can also use bread, pasta, cereals fortified with folic acid to increase the intake of folic acid in your diet.
To make your life easier, we bring you a chart of the various folic acid rich food with their folate levels. . Food DFE (Dietary Folate Equivalent or the amount of folate your body absorbs) per ½ cup serving
If you are allergic to any of the foods mentioned above, consult your doctor before consuming them.
Folic acid dissolves easily in water. To avoid this, it is important to avoid overcooking or boiling vegetables. A healthier option would be to steam the vegetables.
Most birth defects occur at the very beginning of pregnancy, usually within the first 3 or 4 weeks. Often, this is before a woman even knows she is pregnant. So, it is important to have folate in your system during those early stages when your baby’s brain and spinal cord are developing.
If you speak to your doctor when you are trying to conceive, she will recommend you to start on folic acid tablets before pregnancy. If your pregnancy is unplanned, then take folic acid as soon as you know you are pregnant. Your doctor will also advise you to continue taking your prenatal vitamins with folic acid throughout the nine months for a healthy and safe pregnancy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that expectant mothers take folic acid every day for at least a month before you become pregnant, and every day while you are pregnant.
Doctors also recommend folic acid for postnatal women as it lowers the risk of postpartum depression.In fact, all women of all ages and in all stages of life need folic acid tablets in their daily regime to stay healthy.
You can take folic acid supplements either in the morning or in the evening with a glass of water. Take the supplements at the same time each day.
You can take folic acid supplements before or after a meal. Just try to be consistent with the time of the day. If you forget to take folic acid supplements, take them as soon as you remember.
The recommended folic acid dose in pregnancy is 400 mcg of folate each day. But your doctor may provide you with a larger dose of folic acid if you are at higher risk of having a baby with an NTD.
The below chart will guide you on how much folic acid you need. 
You may also need higher doses of folic acid if you have a health condition that affects how your body absorbs folic acid. This includes conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease or celiac disease.It is also essential that you consult with your doctor before starting folic acid supplements if you
▪ Drink more than one alcoholic beverage a day
▪ Have a pre-existing liver condition, kidney disease or are on dialysis
▪ Have sickle cell disease
▪ Take medications to any preexisting medical conditions such as epilepsy, type 2 diabetes, lupus, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, or inflammatory bowel disease
Always consult with your doctor for the dosage of your folic acid tablets during pregnancy if you have any doubts or questions
Folic acid is water-soluble, so it can’t be toxic if taken in large amounts
Folic acid toxicity is rare as it can get excreted through the urine. But excess doses of folic acid without doctor supervision can mask vitamin B-12 deficiency as they both prevent similar types of anaemia.
Folic acid is synthetic and hence not healthy
In vegetables, up to 40 percent of natural is destroyed by cooking and in grains/cereals, up to 70 percent of folates is destroyed by baking. Comparatively folic acid is stable and twice as better absorbed in the body than folates.
“Folic acid is an important vitamin in pregnancy that boosts your baby’s development. It prevents neural tube defects and promotes healthy fetal development. Do tell us in the comments below which foods you plan to consume to get your daily dose of folic acid besides using supplements“.
Hera’s prenatal essentials are the perfect source of folic acid that you need for yourself and your baby