Folic acid is important for pregnant women, as it helps the foetus to develop healthily. It also reduces the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
How much folic acid should I take?
The Department of Health recommends that women who are trying to conceive should take a daily supplement of 400mg of folic acid – and continue to take this dose during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
During the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy, your baby’s spine is developing so folic acid is very important. It is safe to continue to take folic acid after 12 weeks.
If you didn’t start taking folic acid supplements before you became pregnant, you can start to take them as soon as you find out.
A recent study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) has suggested that cognitive skills in eight year olds could be increased if their mums continued to take folic acid after the first 12 weeks.
Dr Carrie Ruxton from the Health Supplements Information Service commented:
“The results showed that the group of children whose mothers received folate supplements displayed a significantly better ability to solve response conflicts. This is an important indicator of superior cognitive function because the process of solving conflicts involves understanding other people’s points of views, using language to resolve disputes and considering different strategies and solutions.”
Where can I buy folic acid supplements?
You can buy folic acid supplements from pharmacies, large supermarkets, health food stores, or from your GP.
What foods contain folic acid?
You can add certain foods to your diet that contain levels of folic acid, although a supplement might be easier as you know you’re getting your recommended amount all in one go with a supplement.
Foods that contain folic acid include:
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Brown rice
- Granary bread
- Breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid
Liver is rich in folic acid but is is NOT safe to eat during pregnancy – liver is rich in Vitamin A, which can cause birth defects in your baby.
Nutrimum cereal bars contain your recommended dose of 400mg of folic acid in each bar – handy to grab and eat on the go, without having to take a tablet. These bars can be helpful if morning sickness means you have trouble taking pills, plus you can nibble on a bar at your leisure.