Today is Folic Acid Awareness Day - but what is it and why is is so important for before and during pregnancy?
Are you thinking about trying for a baby? Then there are several important facts you should know about before you even start trying.
1st May is Folic Acid Awareness Day, set up to raise awareness about the importance of taking the vitamin for all women of child-bearing age. Make sure you read this post by charity GoFolic! on the reasons behind the awareness day and the important work that the charity do.
So here's five important facts about folic acid, including the reasons it's so important for pregnancy (and when you should start to take it...the answer might surprise you!)
- Folic acid - also known as vitamin B9 - is very important for the development of a healthy baby as it can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida. There is strong evidence that NTDs can be prevented by boosting levels of folate before pregnancy. Go Folic! estimate that up to 72% of NTDs could be prevented if all women took folic acid as recommended.
- According to the NHS, The Department of Health recommends that women should take a daily supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid while they are trying to conceive (ideally up to three months *beforehand*, although doctors recommend that any women who might even possibly become pregnant should consider taking a supplement). You should continue taking this dose for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, when the baby's spine is developing.
- Didn't take folic acid supplements before getting pregnant? Take them as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. It also is safe to continue taking folic acid supplements after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
- All of the Pregnacare supplements (including Pregnacare Conception, designed for when you’re trying for a baby, and Pregnacare, for when you’re already pregnant) contain the exact levels of folic acid (400micrograms) and vitamin D (10micrograms) recommended by the UK Department of Health.
- The Government is also considering forcing bread manufacturers to add the vitamin into bread as a preventative measure; similar to what is already done in 50 other countries including the US and Canada. There are many natural sources of folic acid including wholemeal bread, cereal, leafy green veg, tinned salmon and Brussels Sprouts. However, it would be incredibly difficult to eat enough to get the right amount purely from food, which is why it is so important to take supplements if you're thinking about getting pregnant.
Did you know these facts about folic acid? If you think you might be pregnant, read our post on the very early signs of pregnancy.