Folic acid supplementation is very important in early pregnancy & when trying to conceive
Folic acid( a B vitamin) is the only vitamin supplement that is recommended to be taken before pregnancy for women who are otherwise eating a balanced diet.
Folic acid is needed for the development of healthy red blood cells. An adequate intake of folic acid in the mother also decreases the chance of her baby being born with a defect of the neural tube, where the baby’s brain and spinal cord are formed. One well known example of a neural tube defect is spina bifida, where an area of spinal cord is not properly enclosed. This can cause problems such as paralysis of the legs and lack of control of bladder and bowels. The baby’s neural tube is completely formed by the fourth week of pregnancy – when many women have not even realised they are pregnant.
It is therefore important to start taking folic acid supplements while preparing for pregnancy or as soon as you realise that you are pregnant. 400 micrograms (mcg) is the recommended daily dose, which is over and above the usual recommended dietary intake of 200 micrograms. Folic acid occurs naturally in fresh dark green vegetables such as broccoli, peas, green beans and spinach. Many breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid and it is also found in wholemeal bread. You should continue to take folic acid tablets for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy even if you eat a good diet.
A higher dose of folic acid is recommended for some women. It is very important that women who have previously had a baby with a neural tube defect, or who have epilepsy or diabetes, consult a GP about folic acid supplementation before trying to conceive.