Nutrition plays an important role during pregnancy. The diet of a mother should be nutrient-rich as it is necessary for fetal health, the adequate weight of the baby at birth, and enhanced maternal and infant survival rates.
As per recent studies, the nutrition of the mother affects the physical and mental growth of the child. Besides, inadequate nutrition during pregnancy is likely to impose health risks in the later stages of life such as diabetes, cardiovascular ailments, hypertension, cancer, etc.And, when it comes to fetal development the inadequate nutrition during pregnancy can cause medical conditions, malformations, limb defects, neurological disorders, etc. All the macronutrients, micronutrients like vitamins, and essential elements are a requisite. But one such vital vitamin that is very important during pregnancy is folic acid.
So, what is this Folic acid and why does it have so much weightage in comparison to other nutrients? Today, we at Mommypure bring to you every important detail that falls under the blog article, “Significance of folic acid in pregnant women”.
Vitamin B9 is one of the water-soluble B-complex vitamins and is also known as Folate. Folic acid is a synthetic derivative of vitamin B9 which gets converted into folate by the body. The key function of the folate is the synthesis of DNA and RNA. Folate aids in the metabolism of certain proteins that are required during the process of cell division. Thus, it regulates the production and upkeep of the new cells. After conception, the human embryo undergoes rapid growth and development. And the demand for folate increases for the process of the neural tube closure since it acts as a carrier of elements required in nucleic acid production. It also has a role in the production of red blood cells.
The folic acid deficiency during pregnancy leads to many health issues. It can be a cause of anemia in the mother, and its impact on the baby can be represented in the form of a neural tube defect. In pregnancy, cellular division is rampant for the growth process. And since folate is necessary during cellular division its deficiency mainly impacts the neural tube closure.
What exactly is a neural tube defect?
Neural tube defect is a condition where the development of the brain and spinal cord is incomplete. The risk of neural tube defect is usually in the first month of pregnancy. It can manifest in the following ways.
- Spina Bifida – is a failure of the closure of the spinal column and cord.
- Encephalocele – is a condition where a part of the brain bulges out of the skull through an opening and is enclosed by a membrane.
- Anencephaly – is defined as the absence of the major part of the brain and skull due to poor brain development.
- Hydranencephaly – major portion of the brain is occupied by cerebrospinal fluid with the absence of the brain hemispheres.
- Iniencephaly – in this the head is fused with the chest and the neck is absent.
So how can this debilitating health condition be tackled?
Ideally once the pregnancy is confirmed the folic acid should be started with the advice of the treating obstetrician. Also, if there is a planning of pregnancy, the doctor should be consulted who would generally prescribe the folic acid supplement. Some countries have the trend of fortifying grains, rice, bread, pasta, cereals, and flour with folic acid. The recommended daily allowance value of folic acid is 400 micrograms and is taken for the 1st three months of pregnancy, the first trimester. Post this period your treating doctor will prescribe the supplements that have folic acid along with other required micro-nutrients. Some natural sources of folate can also be considered to be included during pregnancy such as papaya, banana, beans, green peas, lettuce, broccoli, boiled eggs, beef liver, brussels sprouts, spinach, avocado, peanuts, oranges, etc.
Also, some studies have shown that with folic acid supplementation during the early pregnancy period or peri-conception there is a reduced risk of congenital heart disease, cleft lip, cleft palate, and pre-term birth. Folate also helps improve fertility in women. It aids in the development of the ovum, fetus implantation, placental maturation, growth, and development of the fetus.
Folic acid intake should fall in your daily routine to safeguard the complete pregnancy period and ensure optimum growth and health of the baby.