Find out why folic acid is important even before you try to conceive
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is important in the early months of pregnancy and doctors recommend that if you are considering getting pregnant you should start taking 400mcg per day of the supplement ideally three months before you try to conceive. If you have unexpectedly become pregnant, it is advised you start taking folic acid immediately.
Folic acid is very important to the healthy development of a foetus and much of this key physical development occurs in the earliest weeks of pregnancy . Most importantly folic acid can reduce the risk of defects to the brain and spinal cord known as neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folic acid is also needed to help the early growth and development of the placenta and helps in the production of the extra blood cells women need when they're pregnant.
To be absolutely sure you're getting at least the recommended amount of folic acid every day, it's best to take a supplement. You'll find folic acid supplements in chemists and health food shops, either as just folic acid or combined with other supplements for pregnancy. If you're a cereal eater then you can also look out for cereal fortified with 100% of the daily recommended intake of folic acid. (But make sure you then eat the right portion of cereal!) If you do take a supplement then it'll be better absorbed if you don't take it on an empty stomach.
"Taking a daily 400mcg folic acid supplement from before you start trying to get pregnant until the end of the first trimester (about 13 weeks into pregnancy) can cut your baby’s risk of spina bifida – a serious defect in the spinal cord – by up to 75%," Dr Sarah Jarvis, GP.
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