Folic acid is a vitamin important for the formation, growth and function of red blood cells. During pregnancy, you need more folic acid for your growing baby and placenta. Folic acid plays a key role in the formation of your baby’s nervous system.
Not consuming enough folic acid increases the risk of birth defects such as:
- Spina bifida (malformations of the spine)
- Anencephaly (born without parts of brain and skull)
- Significantly impaired fetal growth
It can also increase your risk of:
- Folate-deficiency anemia
- Preterm delivery
Some signs you may not be getting enough folic acid include:
- Soreness and ulcers in mouth and tongue
- Changes in hair, skin or fingernails pigmentation
- Weakness and fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you consume 600 micrograms of folic acid each day. Make sure you are taking the prenatal multivitamin recommended by your doctor and not just any multivitamin, as folic acid amounts can significantly vary in multivitamin supplements.
To get enough folic acid, take a prenatal multivitamin daily and include eat foods high in folic acid:
- Fortified or enriched WIC-approved grains (rice, bread, pasta, cereal)
- Green vegetables (spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts, peas, broccoli)
- Fruits (avocado, oranges, strawberries, cantaloupe, papaya)
- Beans and lentils
- Nuts and seeds
- Poultry and meat
- Beef liver (consume no more than once a week)
- Whole grains
Heat can destroy folic acid. Steam or sauté your vegetables, and eat raw fruits and vegetables when possible. Remember to always wash your produce thoroughly with water only remove bacteria. Some people have problems getting enough folic acid. Ask your health care provider if any medications that you take or other medical conditions that you have can affect the amount of folic acid in your body.
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