f you’re thinking about trying for a baby then it’s important to know the facts about folic acid and pregnancy. Read on to find out why is folic acid so important and to find out how you can win one of five prizes of three months’ supply of Pregnacare Conception
This week, from 8th – 14th January, is the second World Folic Acid Awareness Week. The aim of the event, initiated by the International Federation for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus (IF), is to raise awareness about the importance of taking the vitamin for all women of child-bearing age to reduce the risk of NTDs (neural tube defects) such as spina bifida.
IF has long been one of the organisations at the forefront of working towards the prevention of lifelong conditions resulting from NTDs and Pregnacare is a global partner of IF.
When it comes to folic acid and pregnancy, did you know:
Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) such as spina bifida occur in the first 28 days of pregnancy, before many women are even aware that they are pregnant.
NTDs occur when the brain and spine fail to form properly, resulting in varying degrees of permanent damage to the spinal cord and nervous system. These are complex conditions, but it’s a simple, but very important B vitamin (B9), also known as folic acid, which plays the single most significant role in preventing them.
More than 25 years ago, a groundbreaking study conducted by the Medical Research Council (headed up by Professor Sir Nicholas Wald), proved beyond all doubt that folic acid reduced the risk of NTDs by up to 72%.
However, it is estimated that we are still only preventing around 15% of folic acid preventable NTDs globally.
There are many natural sources of folic acid including wholemeal bread, cereal, leafy green veg, tinned salmon and Brussels sprouts. However, it is difficult to eat enough of these products to get the right amount of folic acid purely from food (unless you live in a country that fortifies its food supplies), which is why it is so important to take a supplement if you're thinking about getting pregnant. In addition to taking folic acid supplements, women can eat a well-balanced diet rich in natural folates and eat fortified breads and cereals to maximise the risk reduction of NTDs.
Over 80 countries now aim to fortify staple grains such as flour and bread with the addition of folic acid. However, this does not yet include most European countries.
What is the current advice about folic acid, TTC and pregnancy?
The NHS recommends that you take a daily supplement containing 400μg of folic acid for at least one month before and up to three months after conception.
In addition, it can be beneficial to take it at least three months before you start trying to conceive, to safeguard nutritional stores, and continuing beyond week 12 of pregnancy, since folate contributes to maternal tissue growth.
Research also shows taking vitamin B12 alongside folic acid, is more effective in preventing neural tube defects than taking folic acid alone.*
If you didn't take folic acid supplements before getting pregnant, it’s not too late. Start taking them as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
Pregnacare Conception supplements are designed to be taken before you get pregnant and include 400mcg folic acid, the exact level recommended by the UK Department of Health from the start of trying to conceive. Providing advanced nutritional support for women trying for a baby, Pregnacare Conception also contains vitamin D and vitamin B12, plus zinc which is scientifically proven to support normal fertility and reproduction.
* Addition of Vitamin B12 to folic acid supplements to optimise the prevention of Spina Bifida and other Neural Tube Defects, Professor John M. Scott, Biomedical Sciences Institute, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland