Folic acid always remains a matter of concern for women who are already pregnant or planning pregnancy, for very valid reasons. Negligence in proper intake of folic acid medicines may lead to diseases in the baby. However, taking this small precaution can save you a lot of worry.
Why is Folic Acid Important?
- For Everyone: Folic acid is important for every human being because it is important for normal growth of Red Blood Cells in our body. A good intake of folic acid will lead to proper development of these cells and consequently good oxygen delivery to the cells.
However, folic acid can be taken through natural sources too, such as spinach, potatoes, kidney, liver, peas, beans, sprouts and broccoli.
Moreover, as folic acid is not stored in the body for long, one has to keep taking it regularly so the reserves don’t deplete, doing otherwise may lead to anemia.
- For Pregnant Women: The requirement of folic acid is further augmented in pregnancy due to baby. It decreases the chances of diseases of the nervous system in babies such as spina bifida (abnormal growth of the spinal cord) and anencephaly (abnormal growth of the brain). Along with this folic acid is also reported to prevent diseases like:
- Cleft lip and palate.
- Premature birth.
- Low birth weight.
The Duration of Intake and Dose:
Folic acid tablets are recommended to be taken when the couple is planning pregnancy, so that one has the adequate levels before conception. However, starting the medicines after pregnancy is also fine.
Chances of developing birth defects are higher during the early years of conception and a woman should take the folic acid for at least 12 weeks regardless of her health status (yes, a healthy woman should also take the recommended dose).
Usually 400 micrograms of folic acid daily is recommended, but if a woman has a previous history of birth defects related to pregnancy or there is a family history of such defects dose can be increased to 5 milligrams.
A similar dose is recommended for women suffering from miscellaneous medical diseases like celiac disease, sickle cell anemia and diabetes.
The bio-availability of folic acid in the blood is also affected in women who are taking epileptic drugs. Therefore, in such women the dose of folic acid needs to be increased so to prevent the chances of fits.
(NB: The 5 milligram tablet as 10 times as much folic acid as in a 400 microgram tablet. Do not select the doses on your personal choice and must consult the doctor).
Other Sources of Folic Acid:
Folic acid (Vitamin B9) can be taken from natural sources too, like spinach, egg noodles, lentils, beef liver, broccoli, green beans, potatoes and sprouts. It is also found in some fortified bread and cereals.
Method of Intake:
- If you are taking increased doses of folic acid (due to any medical reason as mentioned above), you should make sure that you take the desired dose at a fixed time each day so as to decrease the chances of forgetting the dose. Moreover, the supplement should be taken according to the advice of the doctor and you must also read the manufacturer’s printed manual on the pack, as this will help you understand the intake further.
- There is no harm in taking folic acid medicines before or after the meal.
- In case of forgetting a dose you must take it as soon as you remember it. However, if one day passes on the missed dose, one must avoid taking two doses at the same time and leave the missed dose.
Dose Folic Acid have Side-Effects?
There are not many problems reported due to folic acid, however, at higher doses it might cause stomach upset, which can be easily resolved on consulting your physician or pharmacist.
- Never take medicines more than what is prescribed by your physician.
- In case of suspected overdose (by yourself or another person) take the bottle to the Accident and Emergency of your hospital and report the event.
- Always check the expiry of the medicines and return to the pharmacy for disposing.