Variously referred to as vitamin B9, pteroylglutamic acid, or folacin, folic acid is the man-made form of folate. It helps the body’s cells to work and tissues to grow. We all need folic acid, but for women who are trying to conceive or are already pregnant, it is especially important since it is required for the production of DNA, which is vital for rapid cell growth. It is needed to make fetal organs and tissues early in pregnancy. Getting adequate amounts of folic acid before and during pregnancy is known to prevent babies from being born with neural defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.
The importance of folic acid during pregnancy, therefore, cannot be gainsaid. It is one supplement that every pregnant woman ought to take diligently as it does a great deal of good to both baby and mother. Lack of it in the diet inevitably leads to various deficiencies in the baby and other complications related to development and growth.
Importance of Folic Acid
- Aids in the development and growth of the baby
During the course of your pregnancy, your baby needs the right nutrition in the right amounts. Lack of folate in the diet could hamper the process of development and growth of the fetus and lead to several complications in the mother. Folate is crucial during the pre-conception stage as well as in the early development phase because this is the period during which the fetus develops nerve and spine cells. Deficiency could thus lead to malformation of the spine or neural tube defects in the developing baby (referred to as spina bifida) which has a life-long impact on the unborn child. Since there are instances when a woman may not realize that she is pregnant, all women planning to have a baby, or who are of child-bearing age are advised to take folic acid supplements.
- Reduced risk of gestational anemia
Folate helps in the production of blood cells in the mother consequently boosting blood circulation and averting the chances of gestational anemia. Increased levels of hemoglobin in the blood allow more oxygen and nutrition to reach the fetus which in turn helps in reducing the chances of intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR) in the baby. In addition, the right amounts of folate also help in combating pregnancy-induced tiredness and fatigue.
- Prevent certain types of cancer
Research continues to show that adequate intake of folic acid may help in preventing certain cancers e.g. post-menopausal breast cancer, colon cancer, and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. However, it is highly advisable for pregnant women to avoid taking folic acid in large quantities as it may pose an even greater risk of developing other forms of cancer.
- A beauty remedy for healthier nails, hair, and skin
If you are having trouble with dry hair, brittle nails, and dull skin while pregnant, then folic acid may be the solution. According to studies, folic acid helps the body to grow new cells and retains the moisture in these tissues. This is vital in maintaining healthy nails, hair, and skin as these are the body parts that are characterized by the fastest growing cells.