A guide to folic acid for anyone starting a family in 2019

As another new year begins, like many others, you might have some big plans mapped out for 2019. If starting a family is on your agenda for the year ahead, we recommend that you pay attention to World Folic Acid Awareness Week, from 6th-12th January 2019.

This annual event is all about raising awareness of folic acid and the importance of this valuable vitamin for any woman looking to conceive. Here are a few facts about folic acid and the benefits it brings to anyone hoping to start a family this year.

Folic acid for pregnancy

Folic acid, otherwise known as folate, contributes to the growth and development of cells, as well as the formation of DNA. All of this happens during the very early stages of a pregnancy, which is what makes folic acid a vital part of your nutrition during this time.  

The impact of folic acid on the risk of Neural Tube Defects

Without the right levels of folic acid in your body during early pregnancy, the risk of birth defects known as Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) are much higher. This is a condition where the baby’s brain and spine don’t develop as they should. NTDs affect around 1 in 1,000 UK pregnancies and typically occur within the first 28 days of pregnancy.

Many women are unaware that they are even pregnant during the first 28 days, which poses a risk to the baby if folic acid levels are low. With that in mind, it’s vital to consider taking folic acid as early as possible when you’re planning on starting a family, rather than waiting until after you have fallen pregnant. Some women of childbearing age choose to take folic acid supplements, even if they have no plans to become pregnant, just in case.

Discover a variety of folic acid supplements under the Pregnacare range, each of which has been specifically designed to support women during different stages of their pregnancy.  

When is the right time to start taking folic acid?

It’s recommended that women begin taking folic acid supplements at least 3 months before they plan to conceive, and continue to do so until their 12th week of pregnancy at the very least.

Supplements should contain 400mcg of folic acid, which is the recommended daily dose to help support a healthy pregnancy.

The Pregnacare range includes supplements for before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after pregnancy, providing the recommended dose of vitamins at times when they are needed the most.

In some cases, a different dose of folic acid may be recommended, so please speak to your GP before planning to start a family if:

  • NTDs run in either your own or your partner’s family history
  • You are taking medication for epilepsy
  • You have a condition that affects absorption, such as coeliac disease
  • If you are medically considered obese or very overweight

Where is folate naturally found?

A daily folic acid supplement is essential to any woman’s diet when planning to conceive, but there are also some natural sources where folate can be found, that will help to further support your body and pregnancy.

The following foods are known as natural sources of folate:

  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale
  • Broccoli and brussels sprouts
  • Citrus fruits
  • Yeast extract
  • Fortified foods such as bread and cereal
  • Eggs

Maintaining a healthy balanced diet will help you to consume more folate on a daily basis, however, taking a daily folic acid supplement is still essential in order to achieve the recommended daily dose of the vitamin.

UK plans to add folic acid to more products in the coming years

There has been a lot of discussion in recent months, around potential plans from the government looking to add folic acid to white flour and products made from it. This is something that is done in many other countries around the world and is put in place to help women achieve the recommended levels of folic acid ahead of pregnancy.

It’s important to remember that these plans haven’t been put in place as of yet and, as such, women should remember to continue taking their daily folic acid supplements to decrease the chances of NTDs from developing.

Help to give your future baby a healthy start as early as possible, simply by incorporating folic acid into your daily diet.

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Alexandra Phillips

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