If you’re trying to get pregnant or you already are, then chances are you’ve heard of folate. Moreover, you’ve been told over and over again about how important it is. As many medical practitioners and friends who have had babies point out, it’s essential to the health of the developing fetus in your womb.
From the time of conception up until the 13th week of pregnancy is known as the first trimester. It’s considered the most critical period in a woman’s pregnancy, according to UCSF Health. It’s at this time when the baby starts to develop its body structure and organ systems. However, it’s also when the risk of a miscarriage or birth defects is greater.
What Birth Defects Might Affect Your Baby?
The formation of the neural tube takes place up to the first six weeks of the first trimester. It’s during this time when defects can affect the development of the brain and spinal cord, as well as the bones enclosing them.
Many factors can affect the neural tube’s development. Nonetheless, you can minimize the risks by avoiding certain types of medication. Likewise, look into what circumstances in your environment or family medical history can increase the risk. For any mother, it’s best to understand what neural tube defects can affect your baby at this time.
- Anencephaly can result in death soon after the baby is born because the skull and brain fail to take shape.
- Encephalotome is rare. If it happens, a child could suffer from physical and intellectual disabilities.
- Spina bifida or split spine can cause some forms of disability such as scoliosis, hydrocephalus, and even paralysis. Bowel and bladder problems, as well as learning difficulties may also occur.
According to the Global Healing Center, the chance of birth defects can drop by as much as 50% as a result of higher folate levels before conception.
How Can You Reduce the Risks?
Folate can help mitigate the risk to your baby as it develops in your womb. For this reason, doctors tell women who are of childbearing age to take folate even if they don’t plan on getting pregnant anytime soon. Pregnancies aren’t always planned. Nonetheless, when it happens, you want to make sure your body can support your baby’s development from the start to prevent any neural tube defect from occurring.
- Folate is a B vitamin
- Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate. Parents.com suggests taking a multivitamin with at least 400mg of folic acid.
- Pregnant women are advised to take 600 to 800mg of folate
- You can also get your daily dose by eating foods rich in folate. Examples of these are dark, green leafy vegetables, eggs, nuts, dried beans, and lentils, as well as liver.
Foods You Can Take to Increase Your Folate Levels
It’s a good idea to incorporate foods rich in folate into your diet. It’s healthy and tasty too. If you’re not yet pregnant, then you should also consider adopting this healthy diet as soon as you can.
- The selection of cereals today gives you healthier options to choose from. Products fortified with folic acid can provide you with plenty of folic acid – in just a single serving.
- An excellent source of folate is dark, leafy green vegetables – a prime example of this is spinach.
- You should eat half a cup of broccoli. Although it only offers half the folate amount of spinach, you’ll still benefit from its antioxidant properties.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth and add to your daily folate dose with a cantaloupe, just eaten as a small snack, this delicious melon tastes great and provides essential folate.
We at Get Healthy Lab recommend that if you plan on getting pregnant anytime soon, then you need to take stock of your physical condition today. Do this before conception. Be sure to take note of your folate levels. Remember, folate is essential for your baby’s early development inside the womb – and is necessary to help minimize the risk of neural tube birth defects.
Kimberley is a health enthusiast and advocate for the overall health of children and families in the community. She’s studying to become a dietitian and currently writes for gethealthylab.com. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her beautiful family and traveling.