It's recommended that you begin taking folic before conception. This essential nutrient is one of the B group of vitamins, and has been proven to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. Spina bifida is a serious congenital condition, which occurs when the tube around the central nervous system (the neural tube) fails to close completely. The neural tube grows to form the baby's brain and spinal cord.
Unfortunately, the neural tube develops often before you know that you are pregnant in the first weeks of pregnancy which is why it's a good idea to start taking folic acid now.
So what's the recommended daily intake of folic acid? It's 400 (mcg) micrograms daily - from the time of conception until the 12th week of pregnancy.
If you have already had a baby with a neural tube defect or are on drug therapy then you will need to work closely with your Doctor. If this is the case then it's recommended that you have a higher dose of 5 milligrams (mg) per day.
Many women may need to supplement their diet with folic acid pills (get your pharmacist to point you in the right direction). You can also increase the folates in your diet by eating lots of dark green leafy veg - spinach, broccoli, pea's, sprouts, green beans etc. You can also find breads and cereals that have been fortified with folic acid and in citrus fruits. When preparing these foods, be careful not to over cook them and by steaming them you will help retain their nourishing goodness.
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