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Folate and Folic Acid: Why it’s so important.

3rd Jun, 2021  |  Avril Flynn  |  Balanced Diet

We hear a lot of stuff that’s important for pregnancy. Sometimes it can seem really overwhelming and sometimes the advice is conflicting – but there is one area where there is pretty much universal agreement and that is the importance of taking folate supplements.

Folate is part of the B group of vitamins. It is vital for general health as it is used to make our DNA and for cell division.  It helps the body with amino acid synthesis and in pregnancy it contributes to maternal tissue growth. Taking a folate supplement in pregnancy is recommended as it significantly reduces the risk of the unborn baby developing neural tubal defects such as spina bifida.  It is recommended by the HSE and NHS that women take 400 micrograms of folic acid, the CDC (Centre of Disease Control) in America also recommend that this should increase to 500mcg when breastfeeding.

Can I get Folic Acid from food?

Folate occurs naturally in foods.  If you think folate sounds like foliage, it is not a coincidence. The word comes from the Latin ‘folium’ which means leaf.  Good sources of natural folate include dark green leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas, chickpeas and kidney beans.

When should I supplement with Folic Acid

Because folate cannot be stored in the body, you need a ready supply of it daily. As half of pregnancies are unplanned, it is recommended that all women of childbearing age should supplement. It is recommended to take at least one month before planning a pregnancy (if possible) and for the entire 1st trimester.

What isn’t widely known is that folic acid the synthetic form of folate, found in supplements and fortified foods, is hard for the body to metabolize.  It is inactive and needs to be turned into the active form for humans to be able to use it.  Some peoples’ systems are better at this than others meaning that a huge number of people (even with supplementation), might not be getting the required amount of folate in their diet.  There are also women in pregnancy who are recommended to take a higher dose for example if they are obese, have a history of malabsorption, have a family history of neural tubal defect, have a history of diabetes or have gone through IVF treatment.

Why is Folate a better option?

So if standard Folic acid supplementation might not be enough during pregnancy what is the answer? In great news Active Folic solves this problem!  It is a scientifically superior and clinically proven fourth-generation supplement that provides the body with active folate.  It means that it has hugely improved bioavailability which your body is able to absorb three times more efficiently than folic acid, meaning your body and your baby can get sufficient amounts to support their growing cells.  You can buy it as a stand-alone supplement, and it also comes as part of Active Iron’s Pregnancy Plus pack. As a midwife and childbirth educator is it so exciting to see a supplement that ensures mum and baby will be getting enough of this hugely important and vital nutrient.

About the Author

Avril Flynn is a registered Midwife, Antenatal Educator and Hypnobirth Teacher and a Women’s Health Advisor at Active Iron. She is an expert in pregnancy, birth and baby preparation and is moderator of the Active Iron Pregnancy & Parenting Community on Facebook. If you have any questions, please join our Pregnancy & Parenting Community on Facebook.

 

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