Nobody wants to give birth to a deformed baby, but this is not just the only reason why folic acid is important
As young couples plan towards the wedding ceremony, it is good to plan child bearing alongside, taking into consideration the possibility of being among those that will get pregnant in their first cycle.
Of all couples trying to conceive, 30 percent get pregnant within the first cycle (about one month). 60 percent get pregnant within three cycles (about three months). 80 percent get pregnant within six cycles (about six months).
Taking folic acid supplement is crucial. Taking 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day for at least one month before conception and during first trimester can cut the chances of having a baby with neural-tube defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida by 50 to 70 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Taking folic acid also helps in preventing some other birth defects as well.
Neural tube defects are among such, they are serious birth defects of the spinal cord such as spina bifida, another affected part of the body is the brain (such as anencephaly) which can occur at a very early stage of development, before many women even know they’re pregnant – which is why it’s important to begin to take folic acid before starting the process of conception
By the way, the neural tube is the part of the embryo from which baby’s spine and brain develop. Spina bifida is a congenital deformity of the spine which occurs in about 2-3 per 1000 life births. According to a recent Nigerian study, the prevalence of neural tube defects is 2.2/ 1000 deliveries of which spina bifida was 72%.
Folic acid is also important to the mother in reducing the risk of preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure disorder that affects about 5 percent of pregnant women.
What else does folic acid do? The body needs this nutrient to make normal red blood cells and prevent a type of anemia. It’s also essential for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA, our genetic map and a basic building block of cells.
Getting enough folic acid is particularly important for the rapid cell growth of the placenta and the developing baby.
Some researchers suggested that folic acid may help lower your baby’s risk of other defects as well, such as cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain types of heart defects.
Folic acid supplements can be gotten at the drugstore, or you can take a prenatal or regular multivitamin. Check the label on multivitamins to make sure they contain the 400 mcg of folic acid you need.
Natural sources are as important as the supplements; pregnant mothers are advised to ensure the consumption of folic acid containing diets. Fruits (orange pawpaw, banana and several others); green leafy vegetables and legumes (beans) are the best natural sources.
But in situations where you’re unsure about what to take, ask your healthcare provider to recommend a supplement as it is very important to take the right dose.