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Nutrition plays a crucial role during pregnancy. There is no question about that. But what does the vitamin folic acid have to do with nutrition during pregnancy? As a woman, you often read or hear about the urgent advice to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy. No wonder, because a folic acid deficiency during pregnancy can lead to severe developmental disorders in the embryo and also affect the health of the mother.
Normally, we consume folic acid through food. However, during pregnancy, a higher amount of the vitamin is needed. We will tell you exactly what folic acid is, how much and why you should take it.
What Is Folic Acid?
Raw foods are a great source of folic acid. In our daily lives, we easily reach our daily folic acid requirement of 300 micrograms of folic acid thanks to food gain. Here’s how it works: Animal and plant foods contain a number of water-soluble B vitamins called folates. When we consume these in the form of food, our bodies convert them into an active molecular form. They then take over the task of regulating important cellular processes in our body. These include, for example, cell division and cell growth.
Folic acid is a synthetically produced form of folate. Such it takes an active molecular form in the body. However, the body can utilize folic acid better than folates.
Folic Acid Deficiency Entails Dangerous Risks
Consequences For The Mother
Cell formation, cell division and growth – these are all processes that play an important role during pregnancy and: for which folic acid is needed. In the mother, a folic acid deficiency during pregnancy can lead to anemia, for example. The reason for this is that the formation of blood cells is disturbed. The symptoms of this are reminiscent of iron anemia. You can find out how dangerous iron deficiency is during pregnancy here.
Consequences For The Embryo
The embryo is mainly at risk of so-called neural tube defects. The neural tube is the preliminary stage of the brain and spine, which begins to develop approximately from the 17th day after fertilization. Towards the end of the fourth week of pregnancy, the neural tube closes. An undersupply of folic acid causes this process to be disrupted. In some cases, the process is even completely disrupted.
In both cases, malformations occur that put the survival of your embryo at risk. There are two malformations that occur frequently: Spini bifida and anencephaly. The former is an open back, the latter is a malformation of the brain. The risk of neural tube defects is reduced by as much as 70% if the woman takes folic acid supplements during pregnancy.
Scientists and doctors are currently discussing the extent to which a folic acid deficiency triggers other complications during pregnancy. It is possible that this is responsible for heart defects, cleft lip and palate, and urinary tract disorders, and increases the risk of heart defects, premature birth, and low birth weight. Overall, it can definitely be recommended to every pregnant woman to make sure she is taking the right amount of folic acid during pregnancy.
Nutrition During Pregnancy – Fruit And Vegetables Are Not Enough
Take Folates During Pregnancy Through Natural Foods
Folates are found in many foods. Especially vegetables and salads – which you eat anyway during pregnancy because of their nutrients – contain enough folates. The problem, however, is that a large proportion of the vitamins decompose during cooking. This is because they are very sensitive to heat and are also water-soluble. This process can be counteracted with gentle preparation of the nutrient-rich foods.
Folates are also found in fruit, whole grain products, potatoes, legumes, nuts, sprouts, wheat or soy germ and dairy products. They can also be found in egg yolk or liver. However, pregnant women should keep their hands off the latter. Liver has a very high vitamin A content. This can have a damaging effect on the fruit. A large number of folates are therefore added to the body even with a vegetarian diet. But is it even allowed to be a vegetarian as a pregnant woman? Here you can find out everything about vegetarian and vegan nutrition during pregnancy.
Despite a healthy and balanced diet, it is usually not possible to get enough folic acid during pregnancy through natural food. It is therefore recommended to take special folic acid supplements (see below).
How Much Folic Acid Should A Pregnant Woman Take?
During pregnancy, the need for folic acid increases by 250 micrograms. Per day, a pregnant woman is recommended to consume 550 micrograms. Even during breastfeeding, a woman’s body still needs 450 micrograms of folic acid.
How To Prevent Folic Acid Deficiency
The World Health Organization recommends a daily intake of 400 micrograms of folic acid in the form of folic acid supplements. The rest of the folate requirement should be met through food. Prevention of folic acid deficiency can prevent malformations. Overall, one should therefore pay attention to a folic acid-rich diet during pregnancy.
Folic acid supplements should be started at least four weeks before conception. Women who are planning to start a family can begin taking folic acid supplements immediately after discontinuing their contraceptives. Therefore, folic acid supplements may be taken during the entire pregnancy. Those who have the opportunity to start taking folic acid supplements from the first day of pregnancy should definitely take advantage of it. You should stop taking them eight to twelve weeks after conception. Here you must bear in mind that a breastfeeding woman also needs an above-average amount of folic acid.
Folic Acid Deficiency During Pregnancy: How It Is Treated
Regular examinations are required during pregnancy. Here we inform you which examinations you should attend during pregnancy . The regular checks of the gynecologist are good and important, because so he can quickly become aware of a folic acid deficiency.
A deficiency of folic acid can be detected by blood values. If this is the case, the doctor will prescribe a daily dose of between two and five milligrams of folic acid. The blood values improve after just three to four days. Nevertheless, you should not put it at risk, as a malformation can already occur within these few days.
Folic Acid-Rich Diet: Healthy Through Pregnancy
A balanced, healthy diet is the be-all and end-all during pregnancy. After all, you have to remember that you are for two. If you take in enough minerals and vitamins such as folic acid, the best conditions are created for the healthy development of your child.
But what all is part of a balanced diet during pregnancy? Here you can find out which foods are best for you and your embryo.