All women of childbearing age should be taking 0.4 folic acid every day!
Folic acid, also known as folate, is a B vitamin found in dark green vegetables that is essential for the healthy growth of a fetus.
Folic Acid Helps Build Your Baby’s Spinal Cord
During the first four weeks of pregnancy, the brain, spine and skull undergo critical phases of development. Without adequate folic acid, a “neural tube defect” (NTD) may occur. One of the most common and devastating defects is Spina Bifida.
Spina Bifida is a neural tube defect which results in an opening in the spinal area of a baby’s back where severe damage has been done to the nerves and spinal cord. Although a surgical repair can be done after birth, the damage is permanent and may result in varying degrees of paralysis of the legs, bladder and bowel problems, learning problems, and in some cases hydrocephalus where there is excessive fluid (water) in the brain. This damage may occur even before a woman realizes she is pregnant.
No Prescription Needed
Physicians and nutritionists advise that women should start taking folic acid beginning in the teenage years. If you haven’t been taking it, you should start at least three months prior to becoming pregnant. If you are newly pregnant, start taking it NOW!
You don’t need a prescription from your doctor. Folic acid supplements are readily available in all pharmacies and most large grocery chains. Your health care provider will advise you on how long you should continue with it during your pregnancy (usually at least three months).
Check Your Family History
If you have had a prior pregnancy with a neural tube defect or have a family history of Spina Bifida or have diabetes or epilepsy, you should discuss this with your physician as you may need a higher dosage of folic acid for your particular situation.
Where To Find It
Folate occurs naturally in dark green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli, in asparagus, lentils and dark beans, in oranges, grapefruit, canteloupe and pineapple. Most cereals and grains are further fortified with folic acid.
While eating foods high in folate and following Canada’s Food Guide help ensure a healthy pregnancy, doctors advise taking Folic Acid 0.4 mg. daily to guard against a neural tube defect.
Sharon Staseson, RN. MSN, Women’s and Children’s Health Consultant, Sharon Staseson Healthcare Associates, Regina, SK.