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These days, taking folic acid for pregnancy is very popular for very good reasons. Folic acid is actually a B vitamin that helps in cell growth and multiplication and in DNA replication. This effect of folic acid on our bodies is most important during pregnancy, wherein your body does not only take care of one body, but is developing another one as well.
So why do we need folic acid when pregnant? Folic acid essentially helps in developing your baby's neural tube, which later on becomes the brain and spinal cord. These two are obviously very important to develop properly so adequate amounts of folic acid are needed by the body. Folic acid is most important during the first few weeks of your pregnancy.
As was mentioned, folic acid helps develop fetal neural tubes. However, these are formed during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Women, unfortunately, do not have the ability to tell whether or not you are pregnant until about for weeks after the baby's conception. By this time, the neural tube has already started to develop, and increased amounts of folic acid have already been needed.
The most common neural tube defects today are spina bifida (characterized by incomplete closure of the baby's spinal cord), anencephaly (underdeveloped brain) and encephalocele (protrusion of brain tissues caused by improper skull closure). These defects occur during the first 4 weeks of pregnancy, way before you will ever know that you are pregnant.
Therefore, if you are planning to conceive, you must take in folic acid as early as now in order to prevent neural tube defects. There is no good time but now to start your supplementation.
So, how can you make sure that you are taking enough folic acid to meet both your body's needs and your developing child's as well? Almost all doctors recommend women of childbearing age, most especially those who are planning to conceive to take in about 400 micrograms (0.4 mg) of folic acid supplement everyday. This should be complemented by intake of folic acid from natural food sources which include enriched grain, green leafy vegetables, breads, pastas, and fruits.
Remember that taking folic acid from food sources alone will not be enough during fetal development so vitamin supplements are highly encouraged. Of course, intake of other vitamins, especially those that enhance folic acid efficiency such as Vitamins B9 and B12, and minerals are highly encouraged as well.
There have not been any fatal effects of taking too much folic acid during pregnancy. However, too much folic acid has been seen to exacerbate vitamin B-12 by masking a deficiency of the vitamin. An upper safe limit of about 1000 micrograms is usually set by medical practitioners.