Folic acid is a part of the B complex of vitamins. It is essential for the development of red blood cells and for many other cells in the body. The form of folic acid occurring naturally in food is referred to as folate.
Functions of Folic acid
Folic acid, in conjunction with Vitamin B12, plays a critical role in the formation and well-being of red blood cells. An inadequacy in these two vital nutrients precipitates the development of a variety of anemia called macrocytic anemia. This situation means the red blood cells appear bloated and large; with such a distortion reducing the capacity of the cells to effectively carry oxygen in the body.
Just as important, Folic acid along with other B Vitamins, is necessary for the proper synthesis of DNA (genetic material) in every cell in the body. Perhaps, of great concern to pregnant women and those aspiring to conceive, is the importance of Folic acid in their wellbeing before and during pregnancy.
Folic acid and Pregnancy
It is important for a pregnant woman to consume the right foods, in adequate amounts, to avoid complications and ensure the well being of the mother and child. Folic acid forms a key dietary requirement for pregnant women and for others seeking to conceive.
If you’re pregnant or are looking to fall pregnant, it is important to get enough folic acid.
Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects. These are serious birth defects of the spinal cord (such as spina bifida) and the brain (such as anencephaly). The neural tube forms a part of the embryo from which your baby’s spine and brain develop.
Benefits of Folic acid During Pregnancy
Red blood cells
Folate enhances the production of red blood cells in the body. As a pregnant woman, this process is essential to avoid becoming anaemic (deficient in iron) during the pregnancy. Folic acid guarantees that there is a regular red blood cell count in your body as you take other supplements for replenishing/replacing the iron, especially because the child gets its supply from the mother’s bloodstream.
Folic acid facilitates the neural development of the child, while it is in your womb. Note that the neural tube of the fetus later grows into the brain and spinal column; hence it is important that there are no neural defects during the early formation of the baby’s central nervous system.
Protection for the Child
Folic acid helps the prevention of diseases such as Spina Bifida (a condition where the development of the spinal cord in a baby is incomplete during the prenatal stage), Cleft Lip & Palate, as well as Premature Births.
Benefits for the Mother
Adequate amounts of folic acid may help reduce the likelihood of complications associated with pregnancy including Preeclampsia. There may be longer term benefits in terms of prevention of Heart disease, some Cancers, Alzheimer’s and Stroke.
Too much folic acid intake may cause some peripheral nerve conditions, so be careful not to take above the recommended supplementation intake.
You can make an appointment with Dr Kenny on 07 3188 5000.
This article is written to be informative and does not substitute seeking a professional consultation from a medical professional.