Prenatal Folic Acid Supplementation

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For years, it has been well established within medical literature that women who are supplementing their diet with folic acid can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube congenital defects in their children such as spina bifida and hydrocephalus. However, to receive these benefits, a woman needs to be supplementing at least 400 to 800 mcg (micrograms) of folic acid prior to becoming pregnant, instead of waiting until they actually are pregnant.

Folic acid is a key nutrient involved in the early development of the brain and spinal cord during pregnancy. While modern medicine can determine pregnancy as early as two weeks after conception, by three weeks the baby is already developing their brain and spinal cord. That is why having adequate levels of folic acid in a mothers’ body at the time of conception is very important and why it is critical for women who want to get pregnant, or might become pregnant, to be supplementing their diet with at least 400 to 800 mcg of folic acid.

A study released in an October 2011 edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the associations of folic acid supplementation before and during pregnancy in regards to severe language delay in children, which would be associated with brain development. The Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study observed nearly 39,000 children born to mothers who had supplemented folic acid within four weeks before to eight weeks after becoming pregnant compared to those mothers who did not supplement folic acid. In general, the children whose mothers supplement with folic acid in early pregnancy showed a reduced risk of severe language delay in children at age three.

In a February 2013 edition of the same journal another study, also from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, followed over 85,000 children with the main interest of looking at the possible relation between the risk of autism and folic acid supplementation during the same time interval as the previous study. Of the 61,000 mothers who supplemented folic acid, only 0.10 percent had a child who had developed an autistic disorder versus the 0.21 percent of children for the 24,000 mothers who weren’t exposed to it. These results do support that the use of folic acid supplements before and during pregnancy can lower the risk of the autism.

We know that an expecting mother absolutely must have the best nutrition possible in order to ensure the positive health of their baby. These clinical trials support that by supplementing folic before and during pregnancy, the mother can help reduce the overall risk of their children having disorders relating to brain and spinal cord development such as, but not limited to, severe language delays or autism.

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