Folic acid during pregnancy: what is it for and how to take it

Taking folic acid tablets during pregnancy is not fattening and serves to ensure a healthy pregnancy and the baby’s proper development, preventing injuries to the baby’s neural tube and diseases. The ideal dosage should be guided by the obstetrician and it is advisable to start consuming it at least 1 month before becoming pregnant. 

This consumption must start very early because the neural tube, the fundamental structure for the complete development of the baby’s nervous system, closes in the first 4 weeks of gestation, a period when the woman may not yet have discovered that she is pregnant. 

What is folic acid for in pregnancy

Folic acid in pregnancy serves to decrease the risk of damage to the baby’s neural tube, preventing diseases such as:

  • Spina bifida;
  • Anencephaly; 
  • Cleft lip;
  • Heart diseases;
  • Anemia in the mother.

In addition, folic acid is also responsible for helping the formation of the placenta and the development of DNA, as well as decreasing the risk of pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Know all the symptoms that this complication can cause in Pre-eclampsia . 

Recommended doses of folic acid

Generally, the recommended dose of folic acid in pregnancy is 600 mcg per day, but as many of the pills used are 1, 2 and 5 mg, it is common for the doctor to recommend taking 1 mg, to facilitate taking the medicine. Some of the supplements that may be recommended include Folicil , Endofolin , Enfol, Folacin or Acfol for example. 

In some special cases, such as when the woman is obese, has epilepsy or has had children with a nervous system deficiency, the recommended doses may be higher, reaching 5 mg per day. 

Medicines are not the only source of folic acid, as this nutrient is also present in several dark green vegetables, such as kale, arugula or broccoli for example. In addition, some processed foods such as wheat flour have been reinforced with this nutrient to prevent food shortages. 

Foods rich in folic acid

Some foods rich in folic acid that should be consumed regularly, include: 

  • Cooked chicken, turkey or beef liver;
  • Brewer’s yeast;
  • Cooked black beans;
  • Cooked spinach;
  • Cooked pasta; 
  • Peas or lentils.

This type of food helps to ensure sufficient amounts of folic acid for the body, and this nutrient is also very important for the baby’s father, who, like the mother, should bet on the consumption of these foods to ensure the baby’s good development. See other foods rich in this nutrient in Foods rich in folic acid .

See also why the  use of vitamin C and E supplements is not recommended during pregnancy .

Does folic acid cause autism in the baby?

Although folic acid has several benefits for the baby’s health and development, and may even prevent autism, if it is consumed in excessive doses, it is possible that there is an increased chance of having autism.

This suspicion exists because it was observed that many mothers of autistic children had a high amount of folic acid in the bloodstream during pregnancy. Thus, this risk does not happen if folic acid is supplemented in the recommended doses, of around 600mcg per day, and care should only be taken to avoid excessive consumption, it is important that any nutritional supplementation or use of medicines in this period should be advised by the doctor.

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