When planning to start a family, you need the proper vitamins and nutrients for your health and the health of your unborn baby. Folic acid is one of the most important vitamins you need before and during pregnancy to keep your baby healthy and safe.
Get prepared for pregnancy by scheduling a prenatal medical visit. OB/GYN Dr. John Paul Roberts and our team provide excellent prenatal care at our Plano, Texas, office. Dr. Roberts evaluates your pregnancy and closely monitors your baby to ensure a successful birth.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a nutrient your body needs, especially when pregnant. Folic acid is one of the B vitamins in your body, and it’s responsible for helping you make new cells.
Folate is your body's natural source of folic acid, while the latter is synthetic. Folic acid is in over-the-counter supplements and prenatal vitamins. It's also readily available in fortified food sources like rice, pasta, and breakfast cereals.
Women of childbearing age should take at least 400 mcg of folic acid every day to ensure a healthy pregnancy. Take folic acid daily for several months before trying to conceive.
How does folic acid protect your baby?
Folic acid is a crucial component in preventing neural tube defects. It's essential in creating your baby's neural tube, which later becomes their spinal cord and brain.
Neural tube defects happen within the first few weeks of your pregnancy, even before you realize you're expecting. For this reason, taking folic acid before you start trying to get pregnant is essential to ensure your baby's health.
Neural tube defects severely affect your baby's life. Spina bifida is one of the primary neural tube defects. With spina bifida, the baby’s neural tube doesn't close completely, leading to an incomplete formation of the spinal cord.
Anencephaly is a neural tube defect that affects the baby's brain. If the neural tube works properly, it helps form the baby’s brain and skull. In anencephaly, the baby is born with an incomplete skull and underdeveloped brain. Often, the baby is stillborn or dies within days.
While it's not always 100% effective in preventing all neural tube defects, taking folic acid dramatically decreases the chances your child develops these conditions.
How to get folic acid
When you're ready to start trying to get pregnant, make an appointment with Dr. Roberts to discuss your options for prenatal vitamins and folic acid. While most of your folic acid comes from your oral vitamin, you should also include foods high in folate in your diet, including:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Whole grains
- Chicken or turkey
You can get enough folic acid and folate through your diet alone. Folic acid is also readily available in processed foods that aren't whole grains. These foods include bread, pasta, and white rice.
But if you're at risk for neural tube defects or have ever had a child with a neural tube defect, you must get plenty of folic acid daily. Dr. Roberts helps you decide if your diet is enough for you or if you need a folic acid supplement.
Call us today at our Plano, Texas, office to schedule a prenatal appointment or book a consultation through our website.