Before and during pregnancy it is important for a woman to follow proper diet and nutrition in an effort to provide the best possible fetal development during pregnancy. Of these nutrition recommendations, women of child bearing age should focus on increasing certain vitamins and elements in the first trimester of pregnancy, as soon as the pregnancy is confirmed.
Diet has long been studied as a key factor in the development of the fetus and, with it, the development of the neural tube during the first trimester of pregnancy. Through this medical research, the neural tube defect is believed to occur during the crucial first few weeks after conception. In an effort to avert the development of a neural tube defect, therefore, medical practitioners commonly make recommendations regarding the intake of folic acid in women of child bearing age.
Folic acid is believed to be a key player in the prevention of neural tube defects in pregnant women and can work to prevent defects especially in women who use folic acid well before becoming pregnant. While a good multivitamin is crucial to proper fetal development, it is folic acid which is believed to play the most significant role in terms of neural tube closure and development during the first trimester.
To prevent a neural tube defect, research has shown that pregnant women must consume folic acid at around 400 micrograms daily, not only during the first six weeks of gestation but also in the weeks leading up to conception. Commonly this level of folic acid can be obtained through an oral supplement which can be purchased over the counter at your local drugstore.
For women with a history of familial Spina Bifida, or women who have previously given birth to a child with Spina Bifida, the risk for developing Spina Bifida in subsequent pregnancies is certainly a greater risk than women who have not. For this reason, women who are considered to be in this high risk category are commonly recommended to take 1,000 micrograms of folic acid per day, both before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy. So, is it possible to consume too much folic acid?
As a general rule, folic acid, when used in larger dosing, does not lead to health complications. However, any long term use, beyond the first trimester, or doses in greater quantities per day, as a general rule, do not provide a benefit to the pregnancy and the developing fetus. For this reason, women who are pregnant should continue to use a daily multi-vitamin during pregnancy but most likely will not benefit from the added folic acid in the diet.
As with any nutritional adjustment, especially during pregnancy, seeking out the advice and direction of an obstetrician is crucial to obtaining the most current medical advice. Practicing good health during pregnancy will aide in delivering a healthy baby and work to reduce the complications which may be associated with conditions after birth, including post partum depression.