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  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
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  Sanford Health Walk-in Clinic
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Sanford Obstetrics & Gynecology

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Folic acid and pregnancy

What are folate and folic acid?

Folate (FOH-layt) is a vitamin found naturally in many foods. Folate helps your body make new cells. Folic (FOH-lik) acid is the man-made form of folate, a B vitamin that everyone needs as it plays an important role in making new red blood cells. The recommended daily amount is 400 micrograms. Because of the discovered benefits of folic acid, many food products are now fortified with it. As a result, most adults receive the adequate amount of folic acid in their diet. A diet deficient in folic acid may result in anemia, which can make you feel weak and tired.

What are the signs of folic acid deficiency?

Signs that you may have anemia include feeling very tired, headaches, sore mouth and tongue and pale skin.

Why is folic acid so important for pregnant women?

Sufficient folic acid levels in pregnant women help prevent against brain and spinal cord birth defects in the baby. Itís wise for women to consume folic acid daily throughout their childbearing years.

The neural tube, which is an embryoís precursor to the central nervous system, develops in the few weeks following conception. Many women donít even realize they are pregnant at that point.

Should pregnant women take folic acid supplements?

Taking prenatal vitamins is important, because they contain folic acid and other beneficial vitamins for a mother and developing baby. Pregnant and breastfeeding women also need more folate in their diets. Vitamin quality varies greatly. Ask your physician to recommend a high quality vitamin that has the recommended amount of folic acid.

How does sufficient folic acid contribute to a healthier baby?

During pregnancy, the presence of folic acid aids in the proper development of the neural tube, which goes on to form the brain and spinal cord. Neural tube defects include spina bifida, a condition in which the spinal cord is not fully formed, and anencephaly, when the top of the brain is not completely formed. The presence of folic acid helps prevent defects from happening during that small window of development. The presence of folic acid is also beneficial during the first trimester of pregnancy because it helps with the healthy development of a babyís organs and bony structures.

What are good choices to get more folic acid into my diet?

Foods high in folate include beans and lentils, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, green peas, juices (orange, tomato, grapefruit, pineapple) fruits (oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, avocado, papaya, raspberries) vegetables (green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, turnip greens, mustard greens, asparagus, collard greens and Chinese cabbage) nuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts and peanut butter.

Foods that have had folic acid added to them include fortified breakfast cereals, breads, flours, pastas, cornmeal, white rice, grain and wheat products. Check the package label on the item; the label will tell you if there is folic acid and how much there is. Sometimes, the label will say folate instead of folic acid.

Chris Danielson, MD is a board-certified obstetrician & gynecologist at Sanford Obstetrics & Gynecology. For an appointment, call (701) 323-8262 or click here to request an appointment online.

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