House Call: Importance of Folic Acid Prior to & During Pregnancy
Folic acid has been proven to significantly reduce risk for neural tube defects, one of the most common forms of birth defects in the United States.
By consuming proper amounts of folic acid prior to and during pregnancy, women can help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, which are extremely serious, and sometimes life-threatening, health conditions.
Folate occurs naturally in foods such as spinach, black-eyed peas, asparagus and broccoli. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate, and often available in supplement form, such as prenatal vitamins, or in foods that are often fortified with it, such as cereals, pastas and grains. While both forms of the nutrient are beneficial, the body is actually able to absorb folic acid better than it’s able to absorb folate. Therefore, doctors advise eating a balanced diet rich in folate, as well as taking daily folic acid supplements.
Risk for neural tube defects is lowered when women begin consuming at least 400 micrograms of folic acid daily at least a month prior to pregnancy, with most doctors and prenatal vitamins suggesting 1,000 micrograms a day. The recommendation for any woman in child-bearing years and at risk for pregnancy is to begin taking folic acid daily.
Cone Health understands the absolute importance of receiving the proper nutrients and maintaining a balanced and safe diet during pregnancy; therefore, their Center of Excellence in Women’s Services not only offers an exceptional network of obstetrics and gynecology specialists, but also a myriad of childbirth and parenting educational classes for women and families throughout the community.
Dr. Michelle Horvath is an obstetrics and gynecology specialist at Green Valley OB/GYN & Infertility and a member of the Cone Health medical staff. Dr. Horvath is a 1995 graduate of the University of Virginia Health System. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas – Houston.