The importance of folic acid during pregnancy (16/02/2016)

Folic acid is an essential vitamin to prevent neural tube defects that can cause anomalies such as spina bifida or anencephaly. Therefore, gynaecologists recommend to take daily supplements of this vitamin before pregnancy and during the first few months of gestation.

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Folic acid is an essential vitamin to prevent neural tube defects that can cause anomalies such as spina bifida or anencephaly. Therefore, gynaecologists recommend to take daily supplements of this vitamin before pregnancy and during the first few months of gestation.

A study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that this preventive measure should be mandatory, which is the case in the USA, where in the last 20 years the number of pregnancies affected by these anomalies has not been significantly reduced.

Nowadays, there are approx. 5.000 pregnancies affected by these anomalies in Europe.

“There are still women who do not take folic acid properly, furthermore there are unplanned pregnancies”, explains Dr. Esther Valladares, gynaecologist at Institut Marquès.

Experts recommend a preconception consultation and emphasize the importance of starting folic acid supplements three months before pregnancy. The reason is that the “neural tube closes between week 6 and week 8 of gestation, and if that does not happen correctly, the baby could have spina bifida or anencephaly”.

These anomalies can cause important neurologic damages to the baby (e.g. loss of strength and sensitivity of the lower limbs, as well as sphincter control alterations).

Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy reduces the risk of neural tube defects by 70%.

The daily amount of folic acid recommended for a woman without history of neural tube defects is 0.4 milligrams.

Furthermore, supplements can be combined with foods high in folic acid, e.g. spinach, chard, lettuce, broccoli, asparagus or lentils.