One of the best ways to try to get pregnant is to act as if you already are – particularly when it comes to diet and lifestyle choices.
There is no doubt that healthier parent bodies are more likely to result in healthier pregnancies and babies. Good nutrition is essential when it comes to TTC, as well as for your pregnancy and postpartum life, so it’s time for you to focus on folate.
Folic Acid Has Multiple Benefits for Mothers and Babies
Folate is a water-soluble B-vitamin. Over the past decades, clinicians have become more aware of how essential folate (and folic acid) is for pregnant women and their developing babies.
1. It prevents birth defects
Folate is beneficial for your body in many ways. One of the most valuable impacts it has is on the generation and maintenance of healthy cells, particularly in the nervous system. As a result, adequate folate/folic acid intake prevents neural tube defects (NTDs), including spina bifida.
Neural tube defects aren’t the only pregnancy risk associated with low-folic acid intake/levels. Women who don’t get enough folic acid also at higher risk for premature births or full-term babies born with low birth weights.
2. Folate is found naturally and synthetically
Folate is found naturally in a wide range of foods, including:
- Vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, spinach, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, green beans, lettuce, sweet corn, zucchini
- Fresh fruit, especially grapefruit, oranges and avocados
- Legumes, including lentils, chickpeas (garbanzos), soy beans, red kidney beans and green beans
The synthetic form of folate is called “folic acid” or B9. It is used in prenatal vitamins and other nutritional supplements. As a result of laws put in place to reduce spina bifida and other NTDs, folic acid is added to most cereals and other processed foods, including bread, pasta, crackers, etc. Keep an eye out for it on food package ingredient lists.
3. You need 400 mg of folate (or folic acid) per day
You’ll probably get enough folic acid from a well-rounded diet that includes lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. To be on the safe side, most physicians recommend women take a high-quality prenatal vitamin to ensure they get enough folic acid while trying to conceive, through the duration of their pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
The CDC advises that all women of childbearing age should get 400 mg of folic acid per day. This ensures a developing baby is getting all s/he needs from the moment of conception. In most cases, taking a higher dose of folic acid is not considered better for preventing NTDs.
4. Some women do need more folic acid than others
There are cases where your physician may recommend a higher dose. This would include:
- If you have a child with an NTD
- You have diabetes
- You or your partner have an NTD
- You or your partner have a family medical history of NTDs
- You’ve had a previous pregnancy affected by an NTD
- You take certain seizure medications that inhibit folic acid absorption
In these cases, your doctor may recommend up to 600 mg. of folic acid per day.
5. Folic acid could boost fertility chances
Some women have a genetic mutation that keeps their body from converting folic acid into its usable form (5MTHF). Unfortunately, they are usually unaware of this mutations until they struggle to conceive and/or suffer multiple miscarriages that lead to further genetic testing. If this is the case for you, taking higher-doses of folic acid in its 5MTHF can help.
If you’re struggling to conceive, or have repeat miscarriages, ask your doctor about genetic screening to determine if chromosomal or genetic abnormalities could be playing a role.
Is getting pregnant more of a struggle than you thought it would be? Contact the Fertility Center of Dallas and schedule a consultation. We’ll combine thorough screening and infertility testing with accurate diagnostics to customize your fertility treatment plan.