When is the right time to take folic acid during pregnancy?

Read on to know when you should ideally be taking folic acid during pregnancy.

If you speak to any woman who has been pregnant, the one supplement she will tell you about that she was asked to take by her doctor is folic acid.

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a type of vitamin, vitamin B9 to be more precise. It is very important because it is one of the main ingredients that help to make nucleic acid which further helps to form some part of the genetic material. This is why it is recommended to take folic acid supplements during pregnancy as it is imperative for the baby.

What is the best time of the day to take folic acid during pregnancy?

It is recommended that you take folic acid with a meal, because any form of vitamin will get better absorbed in the body when you have a full stomach, instead of in between meals.

Also, if possible, have it in the morning along with your breakfast, so that you don't forget it through the day.

What does folic acid do?

Folic acid will help to create more red blood cells and also help to keep your baby’s brain healthy. It also aids in other very crucial functions such as preventing hearing disabilities, even in later years.

It will help your baby’s neural tube develop into the brain as well as into the spinal cord.

Folic acid protects your baby against:

  • Low weight at birth
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Birth defects
  • Under development at the time of birth
  • Premature birth
  • Miscarriage

Folic acid protects you against:

  • Pregnancy complications
  • Premature delivery
  • Heart problems
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Some types of cancers

When should you start taking folic acid?

Most women are recommended folic acid supplements when they visit their gynaecologist during pregnancy. However, if you are already planning to conceive, you should speak to your doctor about it so that you can start taking the supplements even before you are actually pregnant.

According to some medical reports, any woman who is healthy and old enough to be pregnant should start taking folic acid supplements.

The best time to start taking folic acid is before you are even planning to conceive, or are planning a baby. This will ensure that you are in the best of health, so that once you are pregnant, you and your baby growing inside you are both healthy and are safe from any health concerns.

The first 3 to 4 weeks are crucial

Most birth defects that start in the womb happen within the first 3 to 4 weeks of conception. So, it is important that you definitely take your supplements either if you are already planning to conceive, or definitely from the moment you know or suspect that you are pregnant.

Reduce the chance of a miscarriage or early labour

Women who start taking folic acid supplements at least one year before they become pregnant can reduce their risk of going into early or premature labour, by almost 50 percent.

Natural sources of folic acid

  • Spinach
  • Lentils
  • Citrus fruits such as orange and lemons
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Turnip greens
  • Mustard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries
  • Green peas
  • Kidney beans or rajma
  • Okra or bhindi
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Beetroots
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots

How much folic acid should you take?

Here is a general recommendation of how much folic acid you should take, depending on your pregnancy or conception stage. However, it is very important that you speak to your doctor about the same to get the accurate dosage requirements.

  • Trying to conceive – 400 mcg
  • First trimester of pregnancy – 400 mcg
  • From fourth to ninth month of pregnancy – 600 mcg
  • Till the time you are breastfeeding – 500 mcg

Once your baby has stopped breastfeeding, you can speak to your doctor and gradually stop taking folic acid.

Read Can this common vitamin really prevent miscarriages and birth defects?