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- What is folic acid?
- What role does folic acid play during pregnancy?
- Why take folic acid before pregnancy?
- When to take folic acid during pregnancy?
What is folic acid?
Folic acid, also called folate or vitamin B9 , is an essential vitamin for the proper functioning of our body on a daily basis.
Because it intervenes in the process of creating new cells, it is particularly important in all periods of life where growth is important: childhood, adolescence, and of course during pregnancy to promote the proper development of the fetus in utero.
It is found naturally in many foods : in offal, legumes (lentils, split peas, etc.), green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, chard, arugula, cabbage, etc.), in egg yolk, hazelnuts, flax seeds or even chestnuts.
Daily folic acid requirements are estimated at 330 µg/day in men and women over 18 years of age (2). While a balanced diet can theoretically meet your needs, many adult women suffer from a folate deficiency . This goes completely unnoticed most of the time. But it can also manifest itself as anemia – folic acid is involved in the production of red blood cells – digestive and neurological disorders, fatigue or headaches.
They rise to 440 µg/d in the peri-conceptional period (3), that is to say 2 months before conception, and up to 2 months after. A good diet is more essential than ever (go to our blog if you want to know more about nutrition for pregnant women ) but in most cases it does not cover this sudden increase in needs. This is why it is advisable for women trying to have a baby to increase their intake of folic acid via food supplements , and for pregnant women who were not taking it to consume it as soon as they announce their pregnancy.
What role does folic acid play during pregnancy?
Folic acid is a key vitamin during pregnancy. Studies have shown that a severe deficiency of vitamin B9 can lead to miscarriages, abnormalities in the placenta and blood circulation, but also growth delays and malformations of the embryo, such as a cleft lip or a cleft palate. The most common malformation (1 in 1000 pregnancies) is that of the neural tube, an embryonic canal at the origin of the central nervous system. In this case we observe incomplete development of the spine or even an absence of cranial vault, upper part of the skull. A neural tube that does not close will cause abnormalities in the spine, brain and skull. These can constitute a permanent disability and in some cases lead to the death of the child. Spina bifida (a failure of the spinal column to close) and anencephaly (the absence of part of the brain and skull) are among the most commonly observed neural tube defects.
Why take folic acid before pregnancy?
From the first week of gestation, the cells of the maternal tissues and the embryo multiply at great speed. The formation of the neural tube occurs before the 28th day of pregnancy – when many women do not yet know that they are expecting a child. child – this is why it is recommended to start taking folic acid even before conception to protect the baby from the risk of malformation. Don't hesitate to anticipate and discuss your pregnancy plans with your doctor.
When to take folic acid during pregnancy?
The answer is simple: as soon as you discover your pregnancy, you can consider folic acid supplementation. Your gynecologist or midwife can prescribe it for you, but you can also get it without a prescription, as folic acid is considered a food supplement. One 4mg tablet per day will cover your needs as a mother-to-be. If you were already taking it before in anticipation of pregnancy, simply continue taking it on a daily basis. And if you didn't take it, if this pregnancy was not planned or if simply no one had told you about the benefits of folic acid or vitamin B9 in women who want to have a child, no stress ! Many mothers-to-be do not take it at the start of pregnancy and have beautiful, healthy babies.
The National College of French Gynecologists and Obstetricians (CNGOF) recommends continuing supplementation during the first three months of pregnancy (4). Beyond that, folic acid intake is generally no longer necessary because the baby, although still very small, is already formed.
If you are planning to get pregnant and expand the family, or if you have just heard the happy news, think about folic acid which will help you get off to a good start to this pregnancy!