Thinking about having a baby? Or is there any chance that you may get pregnant? You can increase the health of your baby and reduce the risks of birth defects simply by taking folic acid. Health Canada recommends that all women of reproductive age take folic acid daily to help give their future children the best start possible.
Here’s how it works. Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that is naturally found in many vegetables and fruits as well as meats and alternatives. Folic acid is the synthetic version that is in vitamin supplements and is added to some foods, such as white flour, pasta and some cereals.
Folate is particularly important before and during pregnancy for the proper development of a baby’s brain, skull and spinal cord. The most crucial time to ensure that you are getting enough folic acid occurs around four to six weeks prior to conception and in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
But that’s the thing – unfortunately, this is before many women know they are pregnant. That’s why taking folic acid daily is so important.
No Plans for Pregnancy? Protect Your Child Anyway
The fact is, many pregnancies are unplanned.
A recent study by Lakehead University and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit revealed that in a student sample, 77% of pregnancies were unplanned. This is higher than the general Canadian average rate of 50%. The study also indicated that a large percentage of female students surveyed were not taking a multivitamin.
In the case of folic acid, a healthy diet alone is not enough.
Research shows that the reproductive benefits of folic acid come from a healthy diet including foods rich in folate in addition to a daily multivitamin that contains folic acid. Make sure your supplement contains 0.4 mg of folic acid as well as vitamin B12 since they work together. Some women require a higher dose of folic acid so it is important to speak to your health care provider about the amount that is right for you.
If you have questions about your preconception health, please call (807) 625-5900 to speak with a public health nurse.
For Further Information
Call a Public Health Nurse: (807) 625-5900
or toll free 1-888-294-6630