Folic Acid and Your Baby

Are you a woman who may become pregnant? If so, listen up. Eating foods rich in folic acid and taking folic acid supplements on a daily basis before pregnancy can help prevent serious birth defects in your unborn baby. Let Truestar teach you the importance of taking folic acid before pregnancy.

What are Neural Tube Defects?
According to the National Institute of Nutrition, approximately 400 infants are born in Canada each year with a Neural Tube Defect (NTD). Worldwide, about 400,000 infants each year are born with an NTD. The neural tube is the part of the developing baby that eventually becomes the brain and spinal cord. NTDs occur when the neural tube fails to close completely during the early weeks of pregnancy. At this early stage, many women do not even know that they are pregnant.

Spina bifida is the most common NTD, with effects that can range from severe physical disabilities and developmental delay to problems that can be corrected by surgery. The most common effects are limited use of the lower limbs and bowel and bladder limitations. Another NTD is anencephaly, a condition in which the brain does not develop completely or does not develop at all. Miscarriages often result from this condition and babies born with anencephaly die very soon after birth.

How can Folic Acid Help?
Folic acid is one of the B vitamins that is needed for the normal development of a baby's spine, brain, and skull, especially during the first weeks of pregnancy. Research has shown that women who take a daily vitamin supplement containing folic acid before conception and in the early weeks of pregnancy can reduce the risk of having a baby with a NTD.

Some women may be at higher risk for having a child with a NTD if they have a personal or family history of NTDs, if they have diabetes or epilepsy, or if they are obese. Be sure to speak with you health care practitionner before planning your pregnancy.

To reduce your chance of NTDs, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) of folic acid for women of child bearing age is 400 micrograms (mcg). The DRI of folic acid during pregnancy is 600 mcg. Eating a healthy balanced diet rich in sources of folic acid as well as supplementation can help you get the amount of folic acid you need. Folate-rich food sources include dark green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peas and brussel sprouts. Other good sources include corn, dried peas, beans, lentils, oranges and orange juice. Speak with your health care practitioner to determine how much folic acid supplementation is necessary for you.

For more information on pregnancy, see Pregnancy Supplements.

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