Role of Folic Acid in Preventing Birth Defects

Folic acid is an essential form of vitamin B9. It plays a role in planning for a healthy pregnancy, particularly since congenital disorders (birth defects or neural tube defects) of the brain and spine can be thwarted if women of childbearing age consume folic acid.

What types of birth defect affect babies?

Anencephaly is a fatal birth defect in which parts of a baby’s skull and brain do not form correctly. Infants born with the condition cannot survive. “Of affected babies born by c-section, 53% died within 24 hours, 30% lived up to 5 days, and 13% lived longer than 6 days,” according to Anencephaly.Info.

Spina bifida is another serious birth defect, but this time concerning the spine and spinal cord. A newborn with this condition suffers from underdeveloped vertebrae, which manifest in severe physical disabilities.

When should you take folic acid?

You should begin taking folic acid before getting pregnant. When your pregnancy test comes out positive and you have not been taking folic acid, start immediately to help prevent any neural tube defects in the first three months of pregnancy.

Most times, neural tube defects emerge during the first 28 days of gestation. And even if you are not trying to conceive, it is still important to consume folic acid as it helps your body produce and preserve new cells, and prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer.

What foods contain folic acid?

Medical professionals advice all women of reproductive age to get at least 400 mcg of folic acid each day. Also, it is crucial for a conceiving woman or expectant mother to eat food with folate to help prevent congenital disorders.

The following are excellent sources of folic acid:

  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Cereals
  • Beans

Your doctor may suggest the intake of vitamins with folic acid since the foods listed above may not contain enough folic acid to meet the daily requirement. If taking multivitamins upsets your stomach, take it with a full glass of water alongside meals or before bedtime.

What are the risk factors of having a baby with neural tube defects?

Your chances of bearing a child with congenital disorders are higher if you have had a previous pregnancy that involved a birth defect. Your chances are likewise greater if you do not eat a balanced diet that includes folic acid.

How can you prevent the likelihood of having a baby with birth defects?

Anyone who wants to become a mother should commit to healthy choices to prevent heartbreaking birth defects. The best way to stop congenital disorders from affecting your baby is to take the recommended 400 to 800 micrograms (0.4 – 0.8 milligrams) of folic acid daily for a month before conception and throughout the first 90 days (three months) of pregnancy.

As a final word, your daily amount should not exceed 1000 micrograms (1.0 milligrams). If you take vitamins, take note that folic acid should only be used as a supplement with proper guidance from your healthcare provider. Overdosing on folic acid might cause many symptoms, including diarrhea, abdominal cramps,  gas, nausea, stomachaches, skin rashes, seizures, sleep disorders, behavioral changes, and other side effects.