When planning for pregnancy, folic acid is often discussed as a crucial element for a healthy journey. Understanding what folic acid is, its importance, the best sources, and how to incorporate it into your routine can significantly impact both maternal and foetal health.

Here are some answers to common questions I’m often asked:-

 

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a B-vitamin (B9) naturally found in certain foods. The active form of folic acid, 5-MTHF, bypasses folate metabolisation, making it easier for the body to absorb – maximising bioavailability. Folic acid/folate are essential for the production of DNA and other genetic material, making it crucial for growth and development.

 

Why is Folic Acid Important in Pregnancy?

Folic acid is vital during pregnancy because it helps form the neural tube, which becomes the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Adequate folic acid intake reduces the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

 

What makes Active Folic different from other supplements?

The benefits of supplementing with Active Folic (5-MTHF) include:

  • High bioavailability, being in a biologically active form that avoids the need for conversion or activation.
  • It is the main type of folate in our blood (serum and red blood cells) as well as cord blood.

Foods High in Folate

In addition to supplements, folic acid can be found in a variety of foods, including:

  • Leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale)
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons)
  • Beans and legumes (lentils, chickpeas)
  • Fortified cereals and grains
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

 

What is the Best Way to Take Folate?

Incorporating folate-rich foods into your meals is a great way to increase your intake. Taking Prenatal supplements is highly recommended. Included in Active Iron’s pregnancy range Active Folic provides folate in its natural form to support greater absorption, containing Quatrefolic, a source of I-methyl folate.

 

When Should I Start Taking Folate?

Ideally, you should start taking folic acid at least one month before conception and continue through the first trimester. Many healthcare providers recommend continuing throughout the entire pregnancy to support ongoing foetal development and maternal health.

Why Would You Need to Take Folic Acid?

  • Pregnancy Planning: Reduces the risk of birth defects.
  • Genetic Considerations: If there is a family history of NTDs, higher doses may be advised.
  • Health Conditions: Pregnant women with diabetes and obesity have a higher risk of neural tube defects.
  • Medications: Certain medications may interfere with folate absorption.

 

What are the Side Effects of Folic Acid?

Folic acid is generally safe, but some people may experience:

  • Nausea
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad taste in the mouth

High doses of folic acid can hide symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, so it’s important to follow recommended dosages and have regular check-ups with your healthcare professional. This is usually offered as a standard antenatal care pathway, but if you feel you need further blood tests or any investigations it is important for expectant mothers to feel confident to request this.

 

Does Folic Acid Help to Get You Pregnant?

While folic acid is crucial for foetal development and can improve overall reproductive health, there is no direct evidence that it improves fertility or increases the chances of conception. However, being in optimal health can support conception.

 

Conclusion

Folate is a critical nutrient for anyone planning a pregnancy, it supports foetal development and reduces the risk of birth defects. A combination of dietary sources and supplements ensures adequate intake. Taking Active Folic supplements is something I did personally and discuss with women in my care professionally. I would recommend starting to take Active Folic at least one month before conception for the best outcomes. Up to 50% of pregnancies are unplanned so please don’t worry – just start taking once you are aware you’re pregnant. Being informed by a healthcare professional and having the knowledge will help you make the right choice for you.

Marie Louise, The Modern Midwife

Marie Louise, The Modern Midwife

BSc (Hons) RM & PTTLS

Marie Louise, a seasoned midwife with over 12 years of experience and a mother of two, is the accomplished author of ‘Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond’ and ‘The Modern Midwife’s Guide To The First Year’. Additionally, she excels as a hypnobirthing and Childbirth Educator.

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