Folic Acid During Pregnancy: Do I Really Need it?

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As a physician I often gets asked "do I really need folic acid in pregnancy?"

What the Heck IS Folic Acid?

With all the appointments and tests that occur during pregnancy, it’s hard to keep track of everything and easy to question, “Is all of this really necessary?” My patients often ask me “Do I Really Need Folic Acid Supplements During Pregnancy?”

Why is folic acid important?

The science is that folic acid is an incredibly important vitamin supplement.  Folic acid is a B vitamin that is particularly important during pregnancy. It helps prevent fetal defects of the brain, spine, & spinal cord (collectively referred to as neural tube defects).

Do I really need folic acid during pregnancy?

Some sources recommend that all women of childbearing age should be taking a folic acid supplement. Others sources recommend 0.4mg of folic acid daily starting at least 3 months prior to conceiving and continuing throughout pregnancy. There are certain people such as diabetics, those with a family history of neural tube defects, and women on anti-seizure medications who may require higher doses (4mg) folic acid at least 1 month prior to conceiving and 1 month into the pregnancy.

Personally, I took folic acid one year prior to trying to conceive Madi.

I took a prenatal vitamin that contained 0.4mg of folic acid. I have always been bad at remembering to take medications and one way I remembered to take my folic acid was by putting it on my bedside table, so I would remember to take it before I went to bed.

So my answer to patients who often ask if they need folic acid during pregnancy is yes! You also don’t have to stop at a supplement! There are plenty of ways to throw some folic acid into your everyday diet. Green, leafy veggies and citrus fruits are yummy ways to stay on top of your recommended vitamin B intake.

 

Learn more from Dr. Mom

Struggling with breastfeeding?
What are the baby blues
Mom Guild is real
Explore postpartum depression

 

References:
Government of Canada (2017). Folic acid, iron and pregnancy. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/pregnancy/folic-acid-iron-pregnancy.html
Goetzl L (2017) Folic acid supplementation in pregnancy. In: UpToDate, Barss, V (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA.

This article was co-written by Megan Crosby, a 3rd year medical student at the University of Alberta

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