January 8th through the 14th of this year is National Folic Acid Awareness Week, and we encourage all of our customers and readers of our blog to mark the dates on their calendars. If you want to take it a step further, share this post with your friends and family to help raise awareness. Folic acid is a vitamin that every person needs, but it is especially important for women who are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant. With that in mind, here are a few notes about folic acid and its importance.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is an essential B vitamin the body needs to produce new cells. This is helpful for fetal development in the womb, but many others also take it for cardiovascular, brain, and nervous system support.
Folate and folic acid are the same thing; folic acid is just the man-made version. You can get an adequate amount of folic acid in most prenatal vitamins, but you can also get folate naturally in certain food sources, such as:
- Dark green vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens, or asparagus
- Beans (pinto, garbanzo, black, kidney, and more)
- Cruciferous veggies like broccoli
What Birth Defects Could Be Caused by a Lack of Folic Acid?
There are primarily two:
1. Spina Bifida is a life-long condition which occurs when the neural tube doesn’t completely close while in the womb, leaving the spinal cord often unprotected, depending on the severity of the condition. This can result in paralysis or poor limb function, neurogenic bladder and bowel issues, muscle weakness, and more.
2. Anencephaly is another condition associated with a lack of folic acid, which ultimately causes death because the brain does not completely form.
The CDC says that an adequate amount of folic acid could reduce the chances of having these birth defects by as much as 70%.
How Much Folic Acid Is Needed?
Pregnant women or women who are trying to get pregnant should aim for at least 400 micrograms of folate or folic acid at least a month before getting pregnant and every day during pregnancy. The easiest way to achieve this is by taking a prenatal multivitamin supplement, although folate can also be taken in through natural food sources, such as the examples listed above.