Folic acid helps your baby during pregnancy in a variety of ways. Folic acid, which is also known as folate or vitamin B9, is naturally found in green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale. It also occurs naturally in orange juice as well as enriched grains. Dried beans are also known to contain folic acid.
Health care providers recommend that a woman consume around 400 micrograms of folic acid every day during pregnancy. In fact, many health care providers recommend that a woman consume around 400 micrograms of folic acid every day up to a full month before pregnancy occurs.
Folic acid helps your baby to avoid a variety of birth defects. The chances of your baby having some of the most common types of serious birth defects, those that affect the neural tube, can be prevented by getting enough folic acid. The most common neural tube defect is known as spina bifida, followed by anecephaly and encephalocele. You can reduce the risk of these specific birth defects as well as some other types of birth defects by taking the amount of folic acid that is recommended by your health care provider. In fact, studies suggest that Folic acid can reduce the rates of certain kinds of birth defects by up to 70%.
Folic acid also plays an important role in the development of DNA, tissue formation, and cell growth and development. Many health care providers recommend that a woman who is of child bearing age should take a folic acid supplement. Many of the birth defects that folic acid can help to prevent will occur in the first weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant.
Folic acid can even help if you have previously had a pregnancy that has been affected by a birth defect of the brain or the spinal cord. For women who have had a baby with this type of birth defect, your health care provider may recommend an increased does of folic acid, probably around 4,000 micrograms per day.