Health experts are always singing the praises of folic acid before and during pregnancy. But why? What is it? What are its magical powers?
- Will it take away morning sickness?
- Will it rub my feet when I am swollen and sore?
- Will it ensure I don’t poop during labour?
Well, not quite. But it will reduce the risk of certain birth defects in your baby. And that’s just the beginning of its superhero qualities.
Okay, first things first, what is folic acid anyway?
It kinda sounds like the name of a 90s punk band if you ask me. Spoiler alert: It’s not.
Nope. Not a punk band. But it is a pregnancy must! Folic acid is the man-made form of a B Vitamin called Folate. Experts recommended that women looking to conceive or already pregnant consume 600 mcg of folic acid daily.
Here are a few reasons why folic acid is so important during pregnancy.
Benefits of folic acid during pregnancy
1. For baby’s brain development
The main role of folic acid is to produce red blood cells and help your baby’s neural tube development. The neural tube is a part of the developing foetus that will later become the brain and spinal cord. Without adequate folic acid in your body, your baby’ neural tube may not close correctly, thus leading to a neural tube defect.
One of the most severe conditions is anencephaly – a neural tube defect in the brain. This is a devastating condition in which the baby’s brain hasn’t developed properly. Most babies who are born with anencephaly will not live longer than a few hours or days after birth. Heartbreaking.
2. For baby’s spine development
Another important reason to take folic acid during the early stages of pregnancy is to reduce the risk of your baby developing spina bifida, another neural tube defect.
Like anencephaly, this occurs when the baby’s neural tube does not close correctly but leads to incomplete development of the spinal cord or the vertebrae, rather than the brain.
The prognosis for babies born with spina bifida is much better than anencephaly with 90% of infants living to be adults. However, it can cause severe disability and impairment in movement, going to the toilet, and even feeling in their legs and feet. As shown in the image below, there are varying severities of spina bifida.
Multiple studies have confirmed that taking 400–800mg of folic acid daily can reduce the risk of anencephaly and spina bifida.
Birth defects like spina bifida and anencephaly occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy – so very, very early! In fact, you might not even know you’re pregnant by then which is why many mums trying to conceive will start taking a pregnancy supplement with folic acid as soon as they put on their baby-making boots.
3. For reduced risk of cleft lip and palate
Folic acid is also proven to reduce the risk of babies being born with a cleft lip (with or without a cleft palate). A cleft lip is an opening or split in the upper lip that happens when the tissue that makes up the lip does not join completely during pregnancy.
A cleft palate happens if the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy.
Researchers found that taking 400mg a day reduced a baby’s risk of a cleft lip by one-third.
4. For reduced risk of premature birth/miscarriage
1 in 4 pregnancies results in miscarriage, usually before the 13-week mark. While often there are no reasons why this has happened, one study has found that taking folic acid before conception appears to lower the risk of early miscarriage.
Another study also cited that high folate levels were associated with a 28% reduction in the risk of preterm birth. While there is no way to guarantee something like this won’t happen to you, it’s comforting to know that you can reduce the risk.
5. For reduced risk of preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is the most common health issue in pregnancy and is usually characterised by unexplained high blood pressure. One study has shown that women who took a folic acid supplement during their second trimester had a reduced risk of preeclampsia.
How to increase your intake of folic acid
There are a few different ways to increase your daily intake. One option is to eat foods that have a decent amount of folic acid in them naturally.
The best food sources of folate include asparagus, seeds, legumes, dark green or leafy vegetables such as spinach and fruit. Animal liver is an especially rich source of folate, with up to 3x the concentrations found in plant foods.
Your body needs folate in combination with ample choline, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin, glycine, magnesium, trace minerals, and betaine (among other nutrients) to properly support folate metabolism
Another option, which is recommended for all pregnant mums and mums looking to conceive, even if you are eating a boatload of spinach a day, is to choose a pregnancy supplement that contains folic acid.
Ugh. A massive tablet to choke down every morning. No thanks.
Yep. We hear you! But there’s actually a much easier, more delicious (and less stomach-churning) way to do this. A PREGNANCY SMOOTHIE!
The Optivance Mummy Smoothie for Pregnancy/Preconception comes with a five-star rating, is formulated by a nutritionist and Mother of three. Each daily serve contains the recommended intake of folic acid and iodine plus a plethora of goodness including Vitamin, C, D, E, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, protein, probiotics, DHA and collagen. In essence, all the goodness you need for the epic task of growing a human.
With a mild-sweet flavour it’s perfect “as is” for mums suffering mild morning sickness and stressing about their nutrition intake but it’s the perfect base for your morning super smoothies. Just add fruits, veggies, ice, and blend. Easy peasy!
Plus you can ditch the daily pregnancy tablet. It has everything required to support your own health and the safe development of your baby.
But here’s the best thing about this unique pregnancy smoothie. Unlike many pregnancy supplements out there, the Mummy Smoothie contains the bioavailable form of folic acid (i.e Calcium L – Methylfolate).
So if you’re one of the many who have trouble converting supplemental folic acid to its active form (which is around 50-60% of the population), your developing baby will benefit from the full dosage of activated folic acid.
Which takes us to our BONUS reason to take folic acid during pregnancy.
For your own peace of mind
Pregnancy is a stressful time. In those early days, any niggle can bring on a world of worry. The last thing you need on your plate is concern that you’re not providing your baby with the daily nutrients they need.
This is what Optivance Mummy Smoothie for Pregnancy/Preconception can provide – the peace of mind you’re doing everything you can to provide your little bean with the very best start.
You can find out more about the Optivance Mummy Smoothie range, which starts at $49 for a pack of 14 sachets, at their website – Optivance Mummy Smoothie for Conception & Pregnancy here.
Note: This product is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
Please note: this article has been written for general information purposes only and is not a substitute for individualised dietary or medical advice.
This is a sponsored post for Optivance.