Folic Acid Magic

You knew that you had to quit smoking and stop drinking the occasional glass of wine in order to give your baby a good start. But did you know that you had a magic power for preventing birth defects with which you were gifted before your pregnancy had even begun? The magic power is none other than folic acid. Taking this supplement in the days prior to conception and throughout the earliest weeks of your pregnancy can ensure that you will give birth to a normal, healthy baby. This is the most important step you can take—no exceptions—toward having a perfect baby.

Giant Leap  

Folic acid, also known as folate, is a vitamin that plays a role in the formation of DNA and for producing red blood cells. By taking a daily dose of folic acid prior to conception and during your pregnancy, you take a giant leap toward preventing neural tube defects in your developing fetus. These defects are characterized by the faulty development of the baby's spine and nervous system. The protective effects of folic acid have been well-proven.

Among the commonest neural tube defects are spina bifida, encephalocele, and anencephaly. All of these defects have their beginnings in the first 28 days of pregnancy. At this point in the pregnancy, it is rare for a woman to know that she is pregnant.

Crippling Defects

By taking folic acid before attempting to conceive, a woman makes sure she is protecting a possible pregnancy and preventing the tragedy of these severe and crippling birth defects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that today, only half of all pregnancies are planned. Because of these facts, the CDC now advises that every woman who is in her childbearing years should take folic acid supplements.

Folic acid is one of the many members of the vitamin B family. The vitamin is also known as B9. Folic acid can be found in legumes, leafy greens, enriched orange juice, and in enriched grain products. As far back as 1988, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated that folic acid be added to foodstuffs such as breads, cereals, and pasta.   

But the amount of folic acid we derive from our diet may not be enough for the woman who has the potential for becoming pregnant. Because of this fact, it has been recommended that women increase their intake of folic acid in advance of pregnancy by taking prenatal vitamins. It has been found that women who take a daily dose of 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) of folic acid prior to pregnancy and during the earliest weeks of pregnancy reduce their babies' risks for neural tube defects by up to 70%.