Folate Deficiency During Pregnancy Is Associated With
Folate is an important vitamin for pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant. Folate deficiency during pregnancy is associated with a number of adverse health outcomes, including miscarriage, preterm birth and other pregnancy complications. It is important for pregnant women to get enough folate in their diet to reduce the risk of these adverse health outcomes.
What is Folate?
Folate is one of the B-group vitamins, and is important for cell division and DNA synthesis. As a pregnant woman’s body adjusts to the increased demands of pregnancy, folate is necessary for growth and development of the baby. Not getting enough of the vitamin can have serious complications.
Causes of Folate Deficiency During Pregnancy
The most common cause of folate deficiency during pregnancy is getting inadequate amounts from the diet. This can be due to a lack of understanding of the importance of this vitamin, or failing to meet adequate folate intake through the diet. Another less common cause of folate deficiency is the body being unable to effectively absorb the vitamin. This is known as malabsorption and can be due to an underlying medical condition, such as Crohn’s disease.
What are the Risks of Folate Deficiency in Pregnancy?
Folate deficiency during pregnancy is associated with a number of adverse health outcomes for both mother and baby, such as:
- Miscarriage: Low folate levels are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, particularly in the first trimester.
- Preterm Birth: Low levels of folate are associated with an increased risk of preterm birth.
- Low Birth Weight: Folate deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of low birth weight and poor growth in the womb.
- Neural Tube Defects: The neural tube is the structure that forms the baby’s brain and spinal cord. Low folate levels are linked to an increased risk of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida.
- Anemia: Folate is important for red blood cell production. Low folate levels can cause anemia in the mother.
How to Prevent Folate Deficiency
Preventing folate deficiency during pregnancy is essential for the health of the mother and baby. Some of the key steps for achieving this are listed below:
- Ensure you are eating a balanced diet, rich in leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts and fortified grains.
- Take a daily supplement containing 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid, beginning at least one month before conception and throughout your pregnancy.
- If you have an increased risk of folate deficiency (e.g. due to a medical condition), talk to your doctor to discuss whether a higher dose folic acid supplement is needed.
- Monitor your medical conditions. If you have a condition such as Crohn’s disease, this can limit the body’s ability to absorb folate from the diet. Talk to your doctor about how to manage this.
Folate is an important vitamin for pregnant women and those planning to conceive. Folate deficiency during pregnancy is associated with adverse health outcomes, such as preterm birth, low birth weight and neural tube defects. To help prevent deficiency, pregnant women should ensure they are getting enough folate from the diet and consider taking a 400mcg folic acid supplement daily.
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