Folic acid and the desire to have children
What influence does folic acid have on pregnancy and the development of the baby?
But what exactly is folic acid?
Folic acid is nothing more than a man-made form of a B vitamin called folate. Folic acid plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells and supports your baby's nervous system in the development of the brain and spinal cord. The best dietary sources of folic acid are fortified grains. Folic acid is found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.
When should I start taking folic acid?
Birth defects tend to occur within the first 3-4 weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, it is important that you take folic acid during this early phase when your baby's brain and spinal cord are developing.
If you've already talked to your doctor when you're trying to conceive, they've probably already advised you to take folic acid. A study showed that women who took folic acid for at least a year before becoming pregnant could reduce their risk of preterm birth by 50% or more.
It is recommended to start taking folic acid daily at least one month before pregnancy and then continue every day throughout pregnancy. However, you can start taking it earlier.
It is best to discuss which preparation is best for you with your gynaecologist.
How much folic acid should I take?
The recommended dose for all women of childbearing potential is 400 mg folic acid per day. If you are also taking a daily multivitamin supplement, please check how much it contains and adjust the dose accordingly.
With regard to pregnancy, the following amounts of folic acid are recommended:
- While trying to conceive: 400 micrograms
- For the first three months of pregnancy: 400 micrograms
- For months four to nine of pregnancy: 600 micrograms
- During breastfeeding: 500 micrograms
Good food sources of folic acid
There are certain foods that can help you get more folic acid from your diet. These include green vegetables (such as spinach or broccoli), legumes, seeds and nuts, but also animal products such as eggs or beef liver. The following table serves as a small overview of the foods that have a high folic acid content:
*Data in µg folate / 100g
Prof. Dr. Friese, K. et al.: planBaby. If a couple want to become parents - healthy to the desired child. Munich 2014
Maconochie, N. et al.: Risk factors for first trimester miscarriage results from a UK population-based case-control study. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. London 2007.
Chiu, Y.-H., Chavarro, J. E., & Souter, I. (2018). Diet and female fertility: doctor, what should I eat? Fertility and Sterility, 110(4), 560–569. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fertnstert.2018.05.027
Wald, N. et al: Prevention of neural tube defects: Results of the Medical Research Council Vitamin Study. The Lancet. VOLUME 338, ISSUE 8760, P131-137, JULY 20, 1991
Federal Institute for Risk Assessment: https://www.bfr.bund.de/de/fragen_und_antworten_zu_folat_und_folsaeure-8899.html
National Women's Health Information Center: "Folic acid.