Folic acid is essential for protecting your baby against neural tube defects in the brain and spinal cord, such as spina bifida.
Most expectant mums will need a 400mcg supplement of folic acid (vitamin B9) daily, until you are at least 12 weeks pregnant. Your gynae would probably include this in your package.
In fact, it’s advisable for women who are planning to get pregnant to already begin to up your levels by taking folic acid from the time they stop using contraception, since you will not know for certain exactly when you have conceived. It’s also recommended to continue with your folic acid supplements all the way until delivery, as folate-rich foods are good for both baby and you.
Besides taking the supplement, you should increase your intake of naturally occurring folic acid (folate) in your daily meals. Some good sources of folate are green leafy vegetables (spinach, cabbage), pulses (chick peas), wholegrain breads, brown rice, liver, and fortified cereals. As far as possible, you should avoid boiling or overcooking these foods, which destroys the water-soluble folate. Instead, choose to steam or stir-fry, to retain more of the nutrients.
Your gynae may prescribe a higher dosage of folic acid for you if you tick of one of more of the following criteria:
• Previous child with a neural tube defect
• Body mass index (BMI) of over 30
By Dorothea Chow