August 28th, 2011 by Hasham
Prenatal Vitamins: How Much Folic Acid?
Women who are pregnant should take a prenatal vitamin supplement. Prenatals help women get enough of the key nutrients they require, both for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Folic acid is one of the most important nutrients pregnant women can get early in pregnancy, as it can help prevent certain birth defects. Knowing how much folic acid to take can be confusing, so consult your physician for guidelines.
Folic Acid and Pregnancy
Folic acid is high on the priority list of pregnancy nutrients, thanks to its role in preventing many birth defects. Early in the first trimester, the neural tube, a structure that later becomes the baby’s brain and spinal cord, forms. Folic acid is critical during this time for healthy neural tube development and may help prevent certain related birth defects. These include brain damage and spina bifida, which can cause varying degrees of paralysis. Many women may not even know they are pregnant until after this critical stage has taken place.
Folic Acid Before Pregnancy
One possible way to prevent neural tube defects is to get enough folic acid before you become pregnant. Women who are actively trying to conceive should already be taking a prenatal vitamin, which provides them with plenty of folic acid. The Cleveland Clinic reports, however, that around half of all women who become pregnant did not plan their pregnancy. This is a great argument for women to take folic acid as part of their daily vitamin regimen even if they are not planning to conceive anytime soon. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women of childbearing age get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day through a supplement.
Folic Acid During Pregnancy
The Cleveland Clinic recommends pregnant women take a prenatal vitamin that contains between 800 and 1,000 micrograms of folic acid every day. This is a big jump from ACOG’s recommendation for women who may become pregnant. Mayoclinic.com explains that women who are trying to get pregnant need around 800 micrograms daily, and this number increases to 1,000 micrograms once they become pregnant. Once a woman passes the first few months of pregnancy, folic acid helps create the extra blood needed by both mom and baby. The average healthy adult, however, does not need more than the minimum daily recommended amount of 400 micrograms, per Mayoclinic.com. In other words, it’s all about how it is being used.
Dietary Folic Acid
Folic acid can be found in many fortified foods like cereals and breads, and is also plentiful in leafy greens, beans and citrus fruits. If your diet is rich in folic acid, you may not need as much supplementation as recommended. If you are uncertain about how much folic acid supplementation you actually need during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
The Importance of Prenatal Vitamins for Pregnant Women. Prenatal vitamins are an important part of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, and should not be left out of the discussion. The importance of taking a daily prenatal vitamin cannot be stressed enough, its your baby’s future.
The importance of prenatal vitamins for pregnant women has been a hot topic for quite some time. Women are now encouraged to take them before getting pregnant to prevent birth defects, as well as throughout the pregnancy and breastfeeding to ensure a healthy baby. Prenatal vitamins are a supplement to the diet and should not be substituted for healthy food choices. There are many over the counter prenatal vitamins available in addition to those prescribed by a physician. Absorption rates can vary between over the counter brands, or there may be too much or too little of an essential vitamin or mineral. The prenatal vitamins prescribed by physicians are usually of better quality and have greater absorption rates. All types of insurance plans cover most prenatal vitamins so that they are affordable and accessible to women.
At the first prenatal visit, prenatal vitamins should be prescribed if the woman has not already started taking them. There are many different vitamins available and the health care provider can recommend which prenatal vitamins are appropriate. Side effects such as nausea are common, and can be alleviated by taking with food, and not on an empty stomach. If the vitamin can still not be tolerated, the physician can prescribe another in its place. It is an important part of prenatal care a woman should adhere to on a consistent basis, an easy step to help prevent nutritional deficiencies and neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. In a recent study, the March of Dimes found that only two-thirds of women aged 18-45 were getting an adequate amount of folic acid during pregnancy. There is not enough folic acid in fortified foods, making it difficult for pregnant women to get sufficient folic acid from their diets alone. The average prenatal vitamin contains the recommended 400 mcg of folic acid, and when taken daily is the easiest step toward preventing neural tube defects.
Additional calcium is important as well. According to established nutritional guidelines, the average woman requires 1200 mg per day, and when pregnant, this amount increases to 1500 mg per day. The amount of calcium in a daily prenatal vitamin is not sufficient, which is why the diet must be supplemented with other forms, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and green leafy vegetables to name a few. Folic acid is another important nutrient during pregnancy, and is most often contained in the prenatal vitamin in a sufficient dose. Of course, if there is a history of folic acid deficiency, a higher dose would be required. Too much vitamin A can also be detrimental, which is why the use of prenatal vitamins and diet should be discussed with the prenatal health care provider.
If a woman is considering pregnancy, she should consult her obstetrician or midwife to discuss diet, general health, stress, and others factors to be considered.
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