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  • Inadequate Folic Acid During Pregnancy Can Cause Severe Birth Defects; Start while Planning Pregnancy: Doctors

    Published on January 14, 2021

    ·         Folic acid shortage can cause neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida, anencephaly, encephalocele, craniorachischisis, and iniencephaly.

    ·         Right amount of folic supplement can reduce the chance of NTD by 41 per cent and may help to prevent other birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate and some heart problems.

    ·         Daily dose of folic acid from dietary sources can be a maximum of 250-300 mcg while those who are planning a baby or have conceived one may need as much as 400-800 mcg a day.

    ·         Pre-conception counselling helps in managing folic acid requirements of women and prescribes a better management.

    Micronutrient deficiency is known to have adverse effects on the growth of children, but doctors at Miracles Mediclinic & Apollo Cradle Hospital, Gurugram warn that if expecting mothers are not taking enough folic acid during pregnancy, it can cause severe birth defects in their children.

    Folic acid is a form of B vitamin that produces new cells and is very important for the development of a healthy baby in the womb. Folic acid shortage can cause neural tube defects (NTDs), such as spina bifida, anencephaly, encephalocele, craniorachischisis, and iniencephaly.

    “Spina bifida and anencephaly are two common types of NTDs that happen due to poor folic acid supplementation. They are major birth defects of a baby’s brain or spine and can cause lifelong disability or death. These defects occur when the neural tube that later turns into the brain and spine does not form correctly, damaging the baby’s brain or spine. This can happen within the first few weeks of conception or before a woman knows that she is pregnant. Taking right amount of folic supplement during pregnancy can reduce the chance of neural tube defects by 41 per cent and may help to prevent some other birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate and some heart problems,” says Dr Neha Gupta, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Miracles Mediclinic & Apollo Cradle Hospital, Gurugram.

    Doctors say though there is no ceiling to the amount of folic acid a woman can take daily, it is advisable to consume 800 mcg or less folic acid a day. They say while many food items in our daily diet may fulfil the daily requirements, those who are planning to get pregnant or are already so will need extra help. “Whole-wheat products and lentils as well as vegetables and fruits such as asparagus, peas, beets, broccoli, spinach, and oranges are known to be good dietary sources of folic acid. However, the daily dose of folic acid from these sources can be a maximum of 250- 300 mcg while those who are planning a baby or have conceived one may need as much as 400-800 mcg a day. 5 Mg is needed for women with previous history of NTD, diabetes, on anti-epileptic drugs. One must consult a gynaecologist with 4-5 days of missing her periods to check if she is pregnant and start folic acid supplement at the earliest. Pre-conception counselling helps a lot in managing folic acid requirements of women and prescribes a better management. Women may need a higher dose offolic acid if the biological father or his family has a history of neural tube defect; has a previous pregnancy reporting NTD; or has diabetes or is on epilepsy-control medication,” says Dr Neha Gupta.