Folate During Pregnancy 101: Know How To Best Care?

Importance of Vitamin B9 (Folate or Folic Acid) during pregnancy

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the commercial name of Vitamin B9. The human body requires Folic Acid for the production of new cells. Doctors prescribe 400 micrograms of Folic Acid in the preliminary stages of pregnancy. Folate during pregnancy will prevent any kind of birth defect in the newborn baby.

The woman should start consuming Vitamin B9 much before the reproductive age. This will help the body generate new cells before conceiving the baby in the womb. There will be no chance of nutrient deficiency in the body. Daily, the lady should make a habit of consuming that permissible dosage of Vitamin B9. 

Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid or Folate) works together with Vitamin B12 and Vitamin C for digestion and absorption of proteins. It is water-soluble. Hence it cannot be stored or accumulated in the fat tissues of the pregnant lady. A large amount of protein leaves the body through urination.

A low folate diet will reduce the blood concentration of the body. This is because folate helps in the production of RBC and WBC. Hence it is an essential nutrient for that the body’s demand will increase, especially when it is the body of a pregnant mother.

During pregnancy, blood volume increases in the body; hence there should be a sufficient amount of Vitamin B9 in the body. So, this is an important point to reinforce that folate during pregnancy is a must for the baby’s best health.

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What is the difference in the mode of action between folate and Folic Acid during pregnancy?

Folate is the biological source of Vitamin B9. It is natural and biologically available. Folic acid finds its application in dietary supplements and food fortification. It is a synthetic form of Vitamin B9. It is an oxidized synthetic compound.

Most women refer to Folic Acid as their choice of supplement. But they have no awareness; hence they are not able to maintain sufficient levels of Vitamin B9 in the body.

Hence there is a huge difference between consuming folate and Folic Acid. Most pregnant ladies do know about the theory, and they unintentionally consume Folic Acid resulting in complications.

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Folate during pregnancy can easily pass through the placenta and supply nutrition to the baby in the womb. This function is not met by Folic Acid. For consuming Folic Acid, the body needs to perform conversion processes through enzymatic activities.

Methyl-folate is the simplest form of Folic Acid that the body can consume. If folic acid is consumed for a long time, it deactivates the receptors that consume folate. Hence there will be a permanent deficiency of folate in the body of the pregnant lady.

In many cases, Folic Acid is not broken down by the body. The non-converted components accumulate in the body and cause complications.

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What are the benefits of Folic Acid?

Folic acid controls the closing of the neural tube closing of the baby. It protects the baby from neural tube defects. It is a birth defect that occurs due to incomplete nourishment of the brain and spinal cord. 

  • Spinal Bifida: The spinal cord and the spinal column together make a composite structure. With its help, a human body can sit straight and walk or move. But in this particular disease, the two components are not getting closed. Hence the person suffers from a physical disability.
  • Anencephaly: The functioning of the brain of the baby is largely influenced by the care or medical observance given to the mother during pregnancy. In this condition, the baby grows up with incomplete development of the brain. 
  • Encephalocele: In this complication, the baby is born with a small hole in the skull. With growth and age, the brain tissue comes out from the skin. This protrusion is indicating an impairment of the brain.
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All these complications arise much before the lady gets the news of pregnancy. Hence it is better to control the dosage of Vitamin B9 before the reproductive age. Before one month of getting the news, these defects already attack the pregnant lady.

It will protect the baby from the following complications:

  • Premature birth
  • Low Bodyweight
  • Miscarriage
  • Underdeveloped Womb
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What happens if you don’t take folic acid during pregnancy?

Deficiency of Vitamin B9 causes:

If Vitamin B9 is present in the body lower than the desired dosage, then the body will be deficient of that particular body nutrient. Pregnant and lactating women suffer from this deficiency.

The major disease that occurs due to deficiency of Vitamin B9 is Anaemia. With a proper diet and some supplements including folate during pregnancy, it can be cured.

In the body of the pregnant lady, new tissues are formed in the womb and the body of the mother. If the mother is not getting enough intake of Vitamin B9/ folate during pregnancy from food or addicted to alcohol, then there may occur problems of Vitamin B9 deficiency.

Alcohol affects the concentration of folate during pregnancy that is collected in the liver. Folate during pregnancy is released at a greater amount through urination. Hence there occurs an appreciable decrease of Vitamin B9 concentration in the body of the mother.

Anaemia affects the circulatory system of the mother. Pregnancy creates a condition of folate deficiency. Hence, the lady should take care of maintaining the concentration of folate during pregnancy much before the reproductive age.

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There are many other deficiency symptoms of Vitamin B9 or Folate during pregnancy. They are as follows:

  • Muscle weakness and tiredness.
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Neurological disorders
  • Headache

What is the best phase of taking Folic Acid or Folate during pregnancy?

Doctors recommend that birth complications are traced within the first four weeks of pregnancy. For good growth of bones and skeletal system of the baby, they prescribe to take Folic Acid in this early period of pregnancy.

The lady should start consuming iron-rich foods and folic acid foods before pregnancy. Vitamin B9 concentration must be increased in the bloodstream before the news arrives. This will be the best phase, where consuming a sufficient amount of Vitamin B9 is helpful.

Without any strong medication, certain foods that are taken regularly can be the best sources of Vitamin B9 or folate during pregnancy. It is good to start early and end up giving birth to a healthy baby. Optimum levels of Vitamin B9 or folate during pregnancy will help both the mother and baby to recover easily after the operation.

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What are the best food sources of Folic Acid?

  • Legumes (beans, peas, lentils) are excellent sources of good quality folic acid. It also has anti-oxidant properties along with containing protein and fibre.
  • Asparagus is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including Folic Acid. It is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory.
  • The egg is a proper source of good quality folate. One full egg can meet 22 micrograms of folate in the body of the pregnant mother.
  • Leafy greens have good quality folate. They also contain Vitamin K responsible for blood-coagulation.
  • Beets are great sources of folate. It also contains nitrate that is beneficial for health.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, grapes, lemons have a good amount of folate. They are rich in Vitamin C also.
  • Brussels sprouts and cabbage are good sources of folate. It reduces inflammation and also prevents harmful oxidative agents from producing in the body.
  • Broccoli, when cooked, gives a good amount of folate. It also has anti-cancerous properties.
  • Nuts and Seeds can supply the mother with a good amount of folate. The concentration may vary from nuts to nuts. 
  • Beef liver is a good source of both protein and folate. The repair of tissues of the mother after delivery and production of enzymes and hormones requires a good amount of protein and folate.
  • Wheat Germ is removed from the wheat kernel during milling. But still, it can be consumed as a folate-rich rich food. It also has anti-oxidant properties.
  • Papaya should be taken only in ripe form. Unripe papaya causes some form of complications in pregnant women.
  • Banana can enrich the folic acid concentration in the body when taken along with folate-rich foods. It has high nutritional value.
  • Avocado is a good source of folate. This mono-unsaturated food is also good for the heart.
  • Fortified Grains (Bread and pasta) can increase the Folic acid content in the body. The natural folate is not easily absorbed by the bodies. But the Folic Acid present in fortified Grains can be easily digested by the body.
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What will happen if Vitamin B9 is consumed in excessive amounts during pregnancy?

Consuming anything more than the permissible limit is harmful to health. Folic acid is an important ingredient that the mother must consume for better health and brain development of the baby. But this, not the only nutrient to focus on.

Hence the pregnant lady ends up consuming Folic Acid from both food and supplements without taking advice from the doctors. Too much folic acid during pregnancy is certainly detrimental to her health. The mother and child both can be affected if Folic Acid is taken in a concentration more than the recommended value.

The following sets of complications may arise if Vitamin B9 is taken in more levels than desired:

  • Fetal growth may be subjected to impairment. The lady may end up getting a miscarriage.
  • Cancerous cells can be created if Folic Acid is absorbed in excessive concentration. Hence the baby and the mother may have cancerous cells grown in any part of the body. 
  • The newly born child may suffer from complications like Autism and Asthma from birth. 
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Conclusive Remarks On Folate During Pregnancy

A healthy mother can give birth to a healthy baby. To avoid birth defects, the mother should take the proper dosage of Folic Acid every day. It should be taken during contraception and early period of pregnancy.

With a balanced diet and some supplements, it is very easy to absorb a sufficient amount of Vitamin B9 for the proper functioning of the cells and tissue.

The mother should consult the doctor immediately. As soon as she gets the hint that she is going to conceive. It will help her take better control over the Folic Acid dosage. But taking the nutrient from available natural food sources is always better than some artificial capsules. 

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Additional Resource:

Smit Kumar

Health & Wellness Coach: Smit Kumar believes in the philosophy of successful nutrition hunting mindset for the healthy body, mind and spirit. https://thenutritionhunt.com

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