What Is Folic Acid?
Folic acid (also known as folate) is a type of B vitamin. Our bodies need folic acid to produce new cells, and to protect and grow healthy cells.
Who Needs Folic Acid?
Everyone. However, it is especially important for women who are:
- Planning to conceive soon
- Facing fertility problems
Taking adequate folic acid during pregnancy reduces the risks of premature delivery, low birth weight and serious birth defects such as neural tube defects, congenital heart defects limb deformities, urinary tract problems and oral or facial defects (such as cleft lip and cleft palate).
When Should I Start Taking Folic Acid?
All pregnant women in Sri Lanka are advised to take folic acid during pregnancy. If you plan on getting pregnant soon, start taking supplements now. Many birth defects form during early pregnancy, sometimes even before you realize you’re pregnant. It’s important that your body is prepared with adequate folic acid in the system to support your baby’s early growth. If you haven’t already been taking folic acid, start as soon as you realize you’re pregnant. Continue this throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Can I Get Folic Acid Naturally?
Folic acid is found naturally in many dark green leafy vegetables, enriched cereals and citrus fruits that most mums eat during pregnancy in Sri Lanka. Here are a few examples:
- Red rice and brown bread
- Certain types of margarine
How Much Folic Acid Is Enough?
Since getting adequate amounts of folic acid through diet alone can be challenging, pregnant women in Sri Lanka are given folic acid supplements. They are inexpensive and easily found at local pharmacies. Here are the generally recommended daily doses of folic acid:
- Women planning on conceiving: 400 mcg
- During the first three months of pregnancy: 400 mcg
- From four to nine months of pregnancy: 600 mcg
- Throughout breastfeeding: 500 mcg
If you are diabetic or have a family history of neural tube defects or epilepsy, ask your doctor or midwife if you need a higher dose of folic acid.
Apart from the pregnancy related benefits, folic acid can also lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, age related muscular degeneration and depression. Convinced yet? Start taking adequate folic acid today!
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