Folic acid during pregnancy - to be taken daily even if you want to have a child
Numerous studies have shown that the intake of folic acid significantly reduces the risk of childhood malformations of the nervous system or neural tube defects. At least 50 % of neural tube defects could be prevented by an improved supply before conception. But when should one start taking folic acid? Or can folic acid just be taken in with food? We clarify all the important questions about the "pregnancy vitamin" B9!
Should you take folic acid if you want to have children?
The neural tube normally closes as early as 3 to 4 weeks after conception. At this time, many women do not yet know that they are pregnant. Therefore, it is important to optimise the supply of the vitamin even before pregnancy. Many women currently enter pregnancy with a poor supply. Less than 5 % of women of reproductive age reach the folate concentration recommended by the WHO for effective risk reduction of neural tube defects.
When should I start taking folic acid?
In addition to a balanced diet, it is recommended to start taking 400 µg of folic acid per day at least 4 weeks before conception to ensure a good supply. The intake should be continued until the end of the first trimester. From the first day of pregnancy, the reference value for intake even increases to 550 µg per day.
I am pregnant and have not taken any folic acid so far. What can I do?
Women who start folic acid supplementation less than 4 weeks before conception should use higher-dose preparations. If you take 400 µg of folic acid per day, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to reach the recommended reference values, whereas if you take 800 µg a day, it takes only about 4 weeks. If intake only starts shortly before or even after conception, food supplements with 800 µg folic acid should be used. Up to a daily intake of 1,000 µg of folic acid per day, long-term administration is harmless to health even during pregnancy.
Can I also get enough folic acid from food?
It is very difficult to meet the increased folic acid requirement during pregnancy through a healthy diet alone. A little salad is (unfortunately) not enough: a balanced diet with foods rich in folic acid, such as vegetables (lettuce, cabbage, spinach), legumes and whole grain products should always be supplemented with an additional intake of folic acid supplements, especially in the first few months. Important to note: Folates in vegetables and fruit are sensitive to heat and light, and their effect is lost when they are cooked or kept warm.
If you have any further questions about folic acid and the correct intake, please do not hesitate to contact our pharmacists at Saint Charles Apotheke Vienna or Berlin. We will be happy to advise you.