Most of us are aware of the importance of taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy. However, are you aware of the importance of getting enough folic acid either from your diet or from prenatal vitamins before you actually conceive? Getting enough folic acid before you conceive is important because it helps to prevent neural tubal defects. Neural tubal defects are serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord. The most well-known neural tubal defect, Spina Bifida, is a birth defect that causes incomplete development of part of the spinal cord, its covering and the spine. Neural tubal defects develop in the first twenty-eight days after conception, before many women know that they are pregnant. For this reason, it is important to get enough folic acid before you even try to conceive.
Folic acid naturally occurs in many foods including dark leafy greens and vegetables, nuts, egg yolks, beans and citrus fruits. It can also be found in fortified cereals, breads and pastas. To prevent neural tubal defects such as Spina Bifida, it is recommended that you take 400 micrograms (MCG) of folic acid daily starting before conception and continuing for the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. If you have Spina Bifida or if you have already had a child with a neural tubal defect, you may need to take a much larger dose of folic acid. Check with your Obstetrician to find out how much you should be taking.
There are other vitamins and minerals including iron and calcium that are important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy and to help your baby develop and grow. If you are trying to conceive or thinking about trying to conceive in the near future, talk to your OBGYN today about prenatal vitamins and how you can make sure that you are getting enough folic acid as well as other important vitamins and minerals in your diet.