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Are you getting enough folic acid?

Have you heard about folic acid? It is a B vitamin and its intake is crucially important for all women before and during the early stages of pregnancy. It is usually better to get all the nutrients you need from eating whole foods rather than taking supplements or tablets, with one exception – folic acid. For a healthy pregnancy, a folic acid supplement is recommended both before you become pregnant and for the first 12 weeks.
 
Folic acid is important for the development of a healthy spine and brain in the early stages of pregnancy. The risk of spina bifida (when the spinal column fails to close during the first month of pregnancy) can be reduced dramatically if all mums-to-be take a daily folic acid supplement.  
 
Approximately half of all pregnancies in Ireland are unplanned, so if your pregnancy is a surprise, it is a good idea to start taking folic acid as soon as you find out you are expecting. You should then continue taking it each day for the first three months.
 
So, why can’t you just eat a diet rich in naturally occurring folic acid (called folate)?
 
A pregnant woman requires 400 micrograms (ug) of folic acid a day in order to benefit from this B vitamin nutrient. However, it is difficult to consume this volume of folic acid in the daily diet. It is recommended to take a daily supplement of folic acid to ensure the required amount is consumed. It is still important however, to know which foods are high in folate so that you can incorporate them into your diet whilst also taking the supplement.
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