Focus On: Folic Acid
Say you’re pregnant and people may mention folic acid to you. Here’s what you would want to know about this important vitamin.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid (or folate) is a B-group vitamin important for the healthy growth of a foetus in early pregnancy. It plays a big role in the development of the neural tube, a structure which exists in the first few weeks of pregnancy and will eventual form into the baby’s brain, spinal cord and the bones that enclose them. Appropriate folic acid levels may help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
Although often used interchangeably, the two terms folic acid and folate are slightly different. Folate is naturally occurring in a number of foods, while folic acid is used in supplements and fortified in some foods.
Where to get folate
Dietary folate is present in a number of foods, most notably:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Egg yolk
- Citrus fruits
In 2009, Food Standards Australia New Zealand enforced a standard whereby all wheat flour (except organic) used to make bread in Australia must contain folic acid. Some breakfast cereals and fruit juices are also fortified with folic acid, although be mindful of sugar levels when consuming them.
When can you take folic acid?
Early! A baby’s neural tube is formed and closed within the first four to six weeks of development . Ideally, you should be consuming folic acid before you even get pregnant – at least a month prior. Continue to take folic acid during your pregnancy.
How much folate do you need?
Women who are pregnant need around 600mcg of folate from their normal daily diet5. However, it can be challenging to track folate consumption as it’s affected by how a food is cooked and stored.
An additional folate support during pregnancy is a daily supplement, such as Swisse Ultinatal Pre-Conception and Pregnancy Multivitamin. This premium quality formula delivers 21 key nutrients, including 500 mcg of folic acid, iodine, omega-3 DHA, choline, vitamin D and low constipation iron. It’s formulated to support the increased nutritional needs, general health and wellbeing of mother and baby before, during and after pregnancy.
Always read the label. Use only as directed. Vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
- James A. Greenberg, Stacey J. Bell, Yong Guan, Yan-hong Yu. Folic Acid Supplementation and Pregnancy: More Than Just Neural Tube Defect Prevention. Reviews In Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2011, Vol 4, No. 2, Page No. 52-59.