One third of pregnant women are taking far more folic acid than they need, a study published Friday suggests.
Despite their zeal for taking the crucial prenatal supplements, at least 10 percent are still deficient in other nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E and B6, as well as zinc, magnesium and calcium.
Women who take folic acid in pregnancy have been shown to have consistently lower rates of babies born with birth defects like spina bifada.
You can’t take too much folic acid itself, but excess amounts of the nutrient can mask other deficiencies such as lacking B12, which can led to nerve damage.
Purdue University scientists are advising that doctors revise and clarify nutritional recommendations for pregnant women to help ensure that women get balanced nutrition – and aren’t throwing money away on more supplements than they need.
We all need folate, a form of vitamin B contained in folic acid, but it’s particularly essential to women who may become or are pregnant.
Just four weeks into pregnancy – before most women even know they are carrying an embryo – a crucial step in development is happening: the neural tube is closing.
The neural tube will become the entire central nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain.
But if it doesn’t close properly, children may be left with openings or protrusions along their spines or skulls.
More importantly than the cosmetic defects and depending upon where along the spine or skull the opening develops, these issues may be accompanied by bladder gastrointestinal problems, heart problems, nerve system issues or even paralysis.
In order for the tube to close as it should, the mother’s body needs to be capable of creating plenty of new cells.
Folate, or folic acid, is crucial to ensuring that that happens.
Foods like nuts, beans and leafy greens like spinach naturally contain folate, while companies add the nutrient to some ‘enriched’ foods, like grains, cereals and pastas.