Why folic acid for pregnancy is fundamental

August 6, 2018, Dr. Kamini Rao, 0 Comment(s)

Your body goes thru numerous physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. The way you nourish your body during this time is very crucial to your health and your baby’s. Eating a healthful and balanced diet ensures you stay healthy throughout your pregnancy. The food you eat is the main source of nourishment to your developing baby which helps promote your baby’s growth and development.

Appropriate weight gain is beneficial to the mother’s and the fetus’ health reduces the risk of complications and contributes to the well-being of the newborn baby. In order to get the nutrients you need, you must eat from a variety of food groups, including fruits and vegetables, breads and grains, protein sources and dairy products. Typically, you will need to consume an extra 300 calories a day. Some necessary nutrients that you absolutely need to consume during and before pregnancy are listed.

Protein

Protein is critical for ensuring the proper growth of fetal tissue, including the brain. It also helps with breast and uterine tissue growth during pregnancy. It even plays a role in your increasing blood supply, allowing more blood to be sent to your baby.

You should eat three servings of protein per day. Good sources include:

  • lean beef and pork
  • beans
  • chicken
  • salmon
  • nuts
  • peanut butter
  • cottage cheese

Calcium

Calcium helps build your baby’s bones and regulates your body’s use of fluids.

Pregnant women need at least three servings of calcium per day. Good sources of calcium include:

  • milk
  • yogurt
  • cheese
  • cabbage
  • tofu
  • eggs
  • pudding

Folate

Folate, also known as folic acid, plays an important part in reducing the risk of neural tube defects. These are major birth defects that affect the baby’s brain and spinal cord, such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

When you’re pregnant, you need 600 to 800 micrograms of folate.

Iron

Iron works with sodium, potassium, and water to increase blood flow. This helps ensure that enough oxygen is supplied to both you and your baby.

You should be getting 27 milligrams of iron per day. Good sources of this nutrient include:

  • dark green, leafy vegetables
  • citrus fruits
  • enriched breads or cereals
  • lean beef and poultry
  • enriched breads or cereals
  • eggs
  • dried fruits

Folic Acid

In addition to other nutrients it is very important that you consume foods or supplements rich in folic acid.

Folic acid, also known as folate is a group B vitamin essential for building DNA, which is a basic component of every cell in the body. It is crucial in preventing birth defects in the baby’s brain and spinal cord, known as neural tube defects (NTD).  During the years of fertility, it is recommended that every woman consume 400 mg of folic acid every day for at least three months before becoming pregnant.
Consumption of folic acid is particularly important in the three months before pregnancy and during the first 3 months of pregnancy, as it significantly reduces the risk of neural tube defect. In the first weeks of pregnancy the body parts of the fetus, including the brain, develop. At this stage a defect in any cell may develop a malfunction in the complete system. A defect in the neural canal, from which the brain and spinal column develop, can cause morbidity, permanent disability, and even death of the fetus.

The neural canal closes about three to four weeks after fertilization, hence the importance of folic acid intake before conception and during the first three months of pregnancy.
Even during pregnancy, it is recommended to continue consuming folic acid for fetal development and proper growth, as well as to prevent anaemia in the mother.
In addition to folic acid supplement, it is recommended to consume foods rich in natural folic acid (folate) found in legumes, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables.
It is important to emphasize that natural folate does not meet the needs towards pregnancy, and hence the need for folic acid as an additional supplement is very crucial. Some food sources of folate are

  • liver
  • nuts
  • dried beans and lentils
  • eggs
  • dried beans and lentils
  • nuts and peanut butter
  • dark green leafy vegetables 

Other considerations

Aside from eating well, it’s important to drink at least eight glasses of water each day and to take prenatal vitamins. It’s difficult to obtain sufficient amounts of certain nutrients, including folate and iron, from food alone. Make sure to speak with your doctor about which prenatal vitamins you should take to ensure that you and your baby stay healthy.

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