Pregnancy & Childbirth

Folic Acid in Pregnancy – Lexicon for Medicine & Health

Folic Acid in Pregnancy

The human body depends on vitamins and minerals for the smooth running of various functions and processes. This also includes folic acid. Pregnant women in particular have an increased need for folic acid. If the need for folic acid is not met during pregnancy , various symptoms can occur that endanger mother and child.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid belongs to the B vitamin family and is water soluble. Sometimes folic acid is also referred to as vitamin B11, B9 or M. Because the organism cannot produce folic acid independently, it is dependent on its intake from food. On the one hand there are natural folates, on the other hand industrially produced folic acid. The need for folic acid cannot be generalized.

Toddlers, children and infants need significantly less folic acid than adults. The requirement increases significantly with pregnancy. Folic acid is found in various foods. If the need for folic acid during pregnancy is not covered by food, it may be necessary to take specific preparations.

Why pregnant women need more folic acid

Pregnant women need significantly more folic acid than before conception. During the entire pregnancy, cell division is greatly increased by the growing child. After all, the body forms up to 100 million more cells. Accordingly, the folic acid requirement increases by about 50 percent.

Folic acid supports the development of the child and the formation of the nervous system. Studies have shown that an increased intake of folic acid makes sense for women who want to have children. Taking 600 micrograms of folic acid a day reduces the child’s risk of deformities by 50 to 70 percent. For such a result, it is advisable to take in significantly more folic acid four weeks before the start of pregnancy.

In addition, a sufficient folic acid balance must be ensured, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. Larger amounts of folic acid are mainly found in plant foods. Because the vitamin is sensitive to heat, the vegetables should be prepared as gently as possible. For example, short cooking with little water is suitable.

Consequences of folic acid deficiency

Some children suffer from a neural tube defect . These are malformations in embryonic development that can occur in the area of ​​the spine and spinal cord, among other things. This disease can be traced back to a folic acid deficiency . Because the neural tube is formed in the first trimester of pregnancy, an adequate intake of folic acid is necessary.

In addition, further malformations in the child due to a folic acid deficiency cannot be ruled out. Careless intake of the vitamin therefore primarily endangers the unborn child. In adults, a deficiency can trigger anemia . Folic acid deficiencies are also not uncommon in Western industrialized countries. The recommended intake values ​​are often not reached.

The risk of a folic acid deficiency increases in particular with an unbalanced diet, alcohol abuse , the use of certain medications and due to the treatment of cancer and epilepsy . Risk groups should pay more attention to their diet and, under certain circumstances, use specific preparations. A blood test provides information about a possible deficiency.

After just two to three weeks, the plasma folic acid in the blood decreases due to a lack of folic acid intake. A folic acid deficiency reduces the level of homocysteine ​​in the blood. Homocysteine ​​is a protein building block. As soon as the homocysteine ​​concentration in the blood rises, the risk of cardiovascular diseases and vascular calcification also increases . As a result , there is a risk of heart attacks and strokes .

However, a folic acid deficiency during pregnancy primarily affects the unborn child. The deficiency becomes noticeable, for example, through irritability , lack of concentration , depressive moods , nausea , weight loss and diarrhea .

Treatment of folic acid deficiency

If a folic acid deficiency has been diagnosed, rapid action is required, especially in the case of pregnancy. Overall, many foods have an increased proportion of folic acid. In the event of a deficiency, however, the intake of the vitamin through food is no longer sufficient.

For this reason, the treating physicians usually prescribe a preparation that is taken in addition. These are usually tablets with a content of two to five milligrams of folic acid. After just a few days, the value improves significantly and the health risk for the child decreases.

Prevention of folic acid deficiency

A folic acid deficiency should be prevented overall, because otherwise it will affect your health. Adequate intake of the vitamin is particularly important during pregnancy. Because women sometimes only find out that they are pregnant after some time, it is advisable to take more folic acid as a precaution if they wish to have children and are not using contraception.

Folic acid is mainly found in green vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, whole grain products, legumes, nuts and sprouts. Because the vitamin is heat-sensitive, gentle preparation or raw consumption is recommended. Pregnant women should consume 600 micrograms of folic acid daily. Adults consume an average of 200 to 300 micrograms of the vitamin daily.

Because the difference often cannot be covered by a healthy diet alone, it makes sense to take additional supplements. Pregnant women should rely on consultation with the treating doctor in order to avoid negative effects on the child. Overall, the increased need for folic acid during pregnancy should not be underestimated.

With natural folate, no health problems due to large dosages have been identified so far. Industrially produced folic acid, on the other hand, can mask symptoms of an existing B12 deficiency . The independent intake of preparations is therefore not recommended.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.