So many factors go into having a healthy pregnancy, one of which being all the essential vitamins and minerals that are necessary for healthy development of the baby. These vitamins and minerals help to combat any birth defects that could come as a result of a lack of these essential nutrients. One of the MOST IMPORTANT nutrients is folic acid. Folic acid is so important to the development of a healthy baby, it is actually a good idea for women even thinking about becoming pregnant to be taking folic acid supplements before they even become pregnant. It can’t be stressed enough that women thinking about getting pregnant or who are already pregnant get enough folic acid. So what is it about this vitally important substance that doctors and researchers put it at such a high requirement? Let’s take a look at it’s make-up and how it plays such a prominent role in developing healthy babies.
What Is Folic Acid?
Vitamin B has many compounds and forms, folate and folic acid are some of those forms. Folate itself comes naturally in foods and folic acid is the synthetic (man-made) derivative of this form of Vitamin B. In 1998 a Federal Law was passed stating that folic acid be added to a number of processed foods, giving them the health benefits that it provides. Folic acid is frequently used in conjunction with other B Vitamins. Another term you will hear in your research of folic acid is methylfolate. Methylfolate is a micronutrient, a dominant form of folate that occurs in plasma and that is a part of the biologic process.
Where Is Folic Acid Found?
We established that folic acid is the man-made form of folate. Folate is found in many natural foods such as:
- meats of beef liver and kidneys
The Federal Law passed in 1998 saw folic acid be added to processed foods we eat like:
- cold cereals
- bakery items
Folic acid is used in these foods because it tolerates heat well and a lot of these items are baked, so the benefits of the folic acid in these items is not lost in the baking process. Folic acid is an obvious staple in all prenatal vitamin brands and in women’s multi-vitamins, and it also comes in its own supplement form.
What Are The Benefits Of Folic Acid?
Early in pregnancy, during early development, folic acid actually helps form the neural tube, which is the basis that later becomes the baby’s spine, spinal cord, brain and skull. Not only does it help with these vital developments, it also helps prevent some major birth defects which can include birth defects of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Neural tube defects are of the highest concern. Anencyphaly is a serious neural tube defect where the baby is born without parts of the brain and skull. Spina bifida is a birth defect of the baby’s spine. A study done by the British Journal of General Practice had findings that showed the taking of preconception folic acid can partially prevent cleft lip and cleft palate. These are exciting findings for those that study craniofacial anomalies.
You can see how serious conditions these are and just how important taking folic acid is to the development of a healthy baby.
Folic acid also has great health benefits outside of pregnancy. It helps with the growth and development of nails, hair, and skin, things that require new cells. It is also used to treat other medical conditions like:
- memory issues
- help in thinking issues for older people
- helps the body produce DNA
- kidney disease
- high blood pressure
- helps reduce the toxic effects of the drug methotrexate.
As you can see,the importance of folic acid for pregnant or soon to be pregnant women is widely known, but it can be a benefit in so many other conditions. Taking folic acid is a good idea for those that have or are concerned about the conditions mentioned above. As always, consult your physician before taking any kind of supplement in addition to your usual medications and vitamins.
Healthy Baby, Healthy You
The amount of information that exists about how to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby is quite OVERWHELMING, and it grows day by day. But having this information and having it right at your fingertips is helping to increase the number of healthy babies born with less issues than in generations before. And the best way to bring your happiness is to have a healthy baby. Do your research, read good material from good sources, so when you go see your doctor for appointments you know what questions to ask and have a better idea of the best ways to take care of yourself and your little one on the way!
****July is National Cleft and Craniofacial Awareness Month*****
You can visit The American Cleft Palate-Craniofacial Association at their webpage for more information:
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https://ccakids.org/ Children’s Craniofacial Association