Folic acid and pregnancy

Taken prior to conception and throughout the pregnancy, folic acid plays a central role in, among other things, the prevention of neural tube defect.d

What is folic acid?

Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 or folate) is a nutrient that helps cell growth and maintenance. Folic acid is an essential vitamin needed for the growth of foetal and maternal tissues during pregnancy.

Role of folic acid in preventing birth defects

  • Neural tube defects (NTD) (synonym: spina bifida)
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Urinary tract defects
  • Limb defects
  • Orofacial clefts (ie. Cleft lip, cleft palate)

When should I start taking folic acid supplements?

According to the latest recommendations, folic acid should be started at least three months prior to conception and should be continued throughout the pregnancy and until about 4 to 6 weeks postpartum or for the duration of breastfeeding.

Choosing a multivitamin

Talk to a health professional. The recommended daily doses of folic acid vary between 0.4-1 mg and 5 mg depending on the risk that your child may suffer from a neural tube defect (NTD).

The following conditions have been linked to a higher risk of NTD:

  • The presence of an NTD in a previous pregnancy
  • A family history of NTD (on the mother’s or the father’s side)
  • Belonging to certain ethnic groups such as Sikh, Celtic, northern China
  • Insulin-dependent diabetics
  • Epilepsy
  • Obesity
  • Forgetting to take your medication regularly
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction

Is it possible to take too much folic acid?

If you are taking a daily multivitamin that contains folic acid and you have a balanced diet that follows the Canada Food Guide, you will not ingest an excessive amount of folic acid. The excess amount will be eliminated in the urinary tract.

*** The typical North-American diet is unlikely to provide an adequate intake of folic acid before conception or during pregnancy. This is why Canadian experts recommend taking a multivitamin which includes folic acid to guarantee an adequate intake for the baby and the mother-to-be.

Folic acid intake is provided only by diet and supplements!

DIETARY SOURCES OF FOLIC ACID

  • Fortified grain products
  • Corn
  • (white flower, pasta, cereal)
  • Asparagus
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Brocoli
  • Citrus
  • Brussel sprouts

Don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist at any time for additional information!

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Folic acid and pregnancy

Taken prior to conception and throughout the pregnancy, folic acid plays a central role in, among other things, the prevention of neural tube defect.d
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