Folic Acid is a vitamin that helps prevent birth defects, particularly in the brain or spine, called neural tube defects (NTDs). NTDs occur in about 3,000 pregnancies each year, however, these may be reduced by up to 70% if enough Folic Acid is consumed. Additionally, some research suggests that Folic Acid can also help reduce the risk of heart defects and defects in the baby’s mouth (cleft lip and palate).
For this reason, all women, especially those of childbearing age, should be aware of how much Folic Acid they are consuming, and set a goal of an extra 400 mcg each day. Even women who are not planning a pregnancy, but are still of childbearing age, should be aware of their Folic Acid intake in the case an unplanned pregnancy occurs.
There are many ways to get Folic Acid, but the most common is through a multivitamin. Other ways to increase your Folic Acid intake include eating breads, cereals and pasta that have Folic Acid added to them. **HINT: these will be labeled as either "fortified” or "enriched” on the package** Additionally, the following foods are excellent sources of Folate, the form Folic Acid takes when it appears naturally in a food.
Beans, such as lentils and black beans
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and Romaine lettuce
Citrus fruits and juices
To determine if enough Folic Acid is being consumed before considering a pregnancy, a woman should consult with an OB/GYN. At this consultation, a pregnancy plan will be established to ensure the best health for the mother and for the baby.
Tamara James, MD, is a board-certified OB/GYN with Lexington Clinic. She provides services in prenatal care, STD screening, urinary incontinence, routine gynecology and obstetrics, and minimally invasive and in-office gynecological procedures. To schedule an appointment with Dr. James, or for more information, please call (859) 258-5220.
Lexington Clinic is Central Kentucky's largest and oldest medical group. We have more than 200 providers in more than 30 specialties taking care of 600,000+ patients in the Lexington community since 1920.