Folic acid

There are simple things you can do from the moment you start planning a pregnancy that can help you prevent spina bifida.

As well as keeping at a healthy weight, eating well and not smoking or drinking, it is very important that you have enough folate.

Make sure you are getting enough folate!

Folate, a B vitamin, is very important for cell growth and metabolism and is vital in the development of a healthy baby, particularly during the very earliest days, before you may even know you are pregnant.

Folate (vitamin B9) is found in foods such as leafy green vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach), legumes (chickpeas, beans and lentils), avocados and yeast spreads. A man-made version of folate, folic acid is found in some fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.

However, even if you eat very well, diet alone is unlikely to provide the level of folate you need in preparation for and during the very start of your pregnancy.

Research shows that taking a 400mcg folic acid supplement before becoming pregnant, and throughout early pregnancy, can help prevent neural tube birth conditions such as spina bifida and anencephaly.*

If you’d prefer to take a multivitamin, make sure it has 400mcg of folic acid (and no vitamin A unless it is a specially prepared preconception multivitamin).

While the risk of developing neural tube problems cannot be eliminated, it can be greatly reduced (by up to 70%) by taking folic acid, ideally three months prior to conception, until the 12th week of pregnancy. Vitamin B12, 2.5 mcg or more per day, should also be taken from three months before pregnancy. Adding inositol may further reduce the risk, although further research is needed.

If there is a history of spina bifida within your family or you have epilepsy, diabetes or coeliac disease, consult your doctor before trying for a baby as you may need to take a much higher dose of folic acid (5mg), which you can only get on prescription.

There is sometimes anxiety about whether folic acid is effective in women with MTHFR variants, (different forms of an enzyme needed by natural folate). Folic acid is changed into a usable form by a different enzyme, not MTHFR, so this anxiety is unfounded. In fact, women with MTHFR TT variant may need more folic acid than others, since they might have low folate levels to begin with because of reduced MTHFR activity.

Other forms of folate are fine to take, such as metafolin, but be sure to take a B12 supplement as well, since B12 is needed in this pathway. The important thing is to get enough folate well before pregnancy. Folic acid has been shown to work, through very careful research.

Click here for more information about the MTHFR gene mutation

Vitabiotics Pregnacare

Pregnacare includes 400mcg folic acid, the exact level recommended by the UK Department of Health as soon as you start planning your pregnancy* until the end of the third month of being pregnant. Pregnacare provides expert nutritional care for before, during and after pregnancy. 

*Shine recommends taking a 400mcg folic acid supplement for at least eight weeks prior to conception.


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