Getting enough folic acid?
In recognition of Folic Acid Awareness Week Mahaska Health Partnership Birthing Center Director Chyann McGlothlen, RN, BSN, cautions women of child bearing age to make sure they are getting enough in their diet.
Folic acid is a B vitamin that the body uses it to make new cells. Everyone needs folic acid. If a woman has enough folic acid in her body before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine. “Whether you are planning to have a child or not, many pregnancies are unplanned so it is important to take folic acid every day in case you become pregnant,” McGlothlen said.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends women of child bearing age get 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. “Although some foods contain folate, the natural form of folic acid, most people still cannot get enough through diet alone,” McGlothlen explained.
Folate is naturally found in leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, beans and white grains. In addition, the CDC noted that foods labeled as ‘enriched’ have had folic acid added. These foods include breads, flours, pastas, cornmeal and white rice.
McGlothlen stressed getting the recommended daily amount of folic acid helps prevent major birth defects such as spine bifida and anencephaly. “These defects develop in the very early stages of pregnancy before most women know they are pregnant. If you wait to begin taking folic acid once you have a confirmed pregnancy, it may be too late.”
Spine bifida occurs when an unborn baby’s spinal column fails to close to protect the spinal cord. As a result, the nerves that control leg movements and other functions do not work. Anencephaly is when most or all of the brain does not develop.
“So much happens in the very beginning of a pregnancy that it is very important for a woman to begin taking folic acid at least one month before becoming pregnant,” McGlothlen explained.
The CDC recommends taking a multi-vitamin or a folic acid supplement daily. “Most multi-vitamins and prenatal vitamins contain the necessary amount of folic acid in addition to other nutrients our bodies need.
“Taking a daily vitamin is one of the first things you can do to nurture your precious baby,” McGlothlen said.
For more information about how the MHP Birthing Center is making healthcare personal, visit mahaskahealth.org.