Conception
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      Folic Acid in Pregnancy and Conception – Does it Help?

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      Your pregnancy superhero

      Facts about folic acid

      Folic acid is known to help reduce the risks of neural tube defects, and aid the production of red blood cells. Discover more about this pregnancy superhero and why you should start taking it prior to conception.

      Does folic acid help you get pregnant?

      Many mums wonder whether folic acid will help them get pregnant. While folic acid will not help you to conceive, it is widely accepted that folic acid is vital for supporting healthy neural tube development in the very early stages of pregnancy. For this reason, it's considered an essential supplement for every woman’s conception and pregnancy routine.

      Why folic acid is so important in the early days

      Folic acid is necessary during pregnancy for the normal folding and closure of the baby’s neural tube to form the brain and spinal cord. This occurs between day 21 – 28 after conception – when most women still don’t even know they are pregnant. Failure of the neural tube to close results in Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) of which Spina Bifida is the most common. Ireland has one of the highest rates of the condition in Europe (1.17 in 1000 live births).

       

      What is spina bifida?

      Spina bifida occurs when the spine and spinal cord do not develop properly, leaving a gap in the spine. As the spinal cord connects the entire body to the brain, it can lead to a wide range of symptoms.

      The exact causes of spina bifida are not fully understood, but a low intake of folic acid before becoming pregnant, family history, some types of medication, diabetes, and obesity are thought to contribute.

      Taking the right amount of folic acid at the right time

      Irish guidelines state that a folic acid supplement (400µg) should be taken daily for the 4 weeks before pregnancy as well as for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But did you know that 50% of pregnancies in Ireland are unplanned? So by the time a lot of women do realise they are pregnant they have already passed the time period for the closure of the neural tube. That’s why it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to taking a daily folic acid supplement if you’re female, of childbearing age, and sexually active, even if you are not planning to become pregnant.

      400mcg of folic acid per day is recommended, before conception and for the first trimester.

      Mums who might need an extra boost

      In some cases your HCP might advise you to take a higher dose of folic acid. You should speak to your healthcare professional if any of the below applies to you:  

      • You have had a previously affected pregnancy
      • You or a family member have a spinal cord defect
      • You're taking medication for epilepsy
      • You're obese with a BMI over 30
      • You have coeliac disease, diabetes, sickle cell anaemia, or thalassaemia
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