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Folic acid, a synthetic form of the nutrient folate, is a B-vitamin required for healthy cell development. It aids in the formation of healthy red blood cells and helps make DNA and other genetic material. It is especially important to ensure prenatal health. When compared to the naturally occurring form of folate, folic acid is more stable in food storage and preparation, and is better absorbed. It is therefore utilised in supplementation and dietary fortification.
If consumed before and during early pregnancy, folic acid can prevent up to 70% of major brain and spine birth abnormalities known as neural tube defects (NTDs). The neural tube is responsible for the formation of the early brain and spine. When the neural tube fails to seal correctly, NTDs develop. These birth problems appear early in pregnancy, usually before a woman realises she is expecting. Folate deficiency can cause spinal cord abnormalities in the child, since the spinal cord is one of the earliest sections of the body to develop.
Every year, an estimated 8 million infants worldwide are born with a birth defect, with about 300,000 of them dying as a result of complications. In India, a significant reduction in infant mortality due to infectious illness and malnutrition has been observed during the previous two decades. However, the mortality rate associated with birth abnormalities has remained steady.
The studies on the occurrence of birth abnormalities such as neural tube defects and orofacial clefts in the country have yielded mixed results. As per existing data, it can be estimated that the overall pooled birth prevalence of neural tube defects in India is 4.5 per 1000 total births.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following to help avoid several serious birth abnormalities of the baby’s brain and spine:
Moreover, even without pregnancy, folic acid consumption is a healthy habit since it can contribute to the healthy new cells that the body makes every day.
To sum it up, one can refer to the list below:
In addition to this, foods high in folate, such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, oranges, avocado, or fortified breads and cereals, are also helpful. Before beginning to use any new supplements, one should consult their doctor or nutritionist and check for allergic reactions.
For any woman looking for recommendations of supplements for fertility, folic acid always comes as one of the important suggestions. Both before and after conception, folic acid can have a significant impact on female fertility. Since folic acid is known to have a positive impact on cell metabolism throughout the body, it does make its impact on the ovaries. It can help avoid early pregnancy abnormalities, which can lead to miscarriage in women, who are having trouble conceiving.
Folate is also important for stress and inflammation in the body. Stressors can affect a woman’s capacity to conceive, ranging from advanced maternal age to lifestyle choices like smoking. Appropriate folic acid levels in one’s diet can assist to mitigate the consequences of this stress.