Congratulations, you’re thinking about getting pregnant! If you’re ready to grow your family, chances are you’re already focusing on eating better, exercising regularly and decreasing stress. Taking folic acid is one more lifestyle change future moms-to-be should take to prepare their bodies for a healthy conception and pregnancy.
What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate, the Vitamin B9 supplement that helps your body produce and maintain new cells. Women between the ages of 15 and 44 need 400mcg of folic acid each day. Like many other types of vitamins, it can be hard to get the nutrients we need just from a healthy diet or a regular multivitamin alone.
Even if you’re not planning on getting pregnant, some of the many ways folic acid boosts your health include the function of your cells, brain and nerves, and digestion. It also helps improve your hair, skin and nails.
Folic Acid and Pregnancy
When it comes to boosting your folic acid intake before pregnancy, it’s better to do so earlier than later. This is crucial because folic acid helps form the fetus’s brain and spinal cord. Approximately 17 to 33 days after conception the fetus’ neural tube, which becomes your baby’s brain and spine, begins to develop. This part of conception happens four to six weeks after your last period when many women don’t yet know that they’re pregnant.
Benefits Of Taking Folic Acid Before And During Pregnancy
Research shows that 70 percent of neural tube defects can be prevented by taking the daily recommended dose of folic acid at least a month before conception. Future moms-to-be who take 400 mg of folic acid before and 600 mg of folic acid during pregnancy are less likely to have children with neural tube defects that affect the brain and spinal cord, such as spina bifida. Furthermore, research shows folic acid supplementation significantly decreases the risk of babies’ congenital heart defects and can prevent cleft lip and cleft palate.
Since almost 50 percent of pregnancies in Canada are unplanned, it’s essential for women in their child-bearing years to ensure they’re getting enough folate acid through both a well-balanced diet and extra supplementation.
Some sources say that you should take folic acid supplements until you’re at least 12 weeks pregnant, which is when the fetus’ spine is done developing. However, expecting mothers can also opt to take 600mg of folic acid for the entire duration of their pregnancy.
Should Men Also Take Folic Acid Supplements?
Folic acid is not just essential for women thinking about getting pregnant. A study by the Fertility and Sterility journal found that folic acid supplementation increased men’s sperm count by 74 percent. After all, folic acid supplements are essential for your body’s systems to run as smoothly as possible for both men and women.
Natural Ways To Get More Folic Acid
Did you know that your body doesn’t naturally produce folate? If you’re looking to increase your folate intake naturally, you can do so by eating more high-folate foods. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, chickpeas, kidney beans and citrus fruits are some of the best high-folate foods. Although high-folate foods are a vital part of a healthy and well-balanced diet, the only way to ensure that you’re getting enough folic acid is by taking folic acid supplements.
Talk To Your Doctor Before Taking Folic Acid
It’s always a good idea to meet with your primary healthcare provider or fertility specialist before you start growing your family. Getting ready to get pregnant is an exciting time for both you and your partner. However, you’ll always benefit from a personalized healthcare plan to ensure that you and your partner are as healthy as possible for this next chapter. Download our patient referral form to get started.