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When to stop high doses of Folic Acid?

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Wednesday, May 02, 2007 | 0 comments

QUESTION: I've been taking extra high doses of folic acid for about 6 months or so...does anyone know how long I should keep doing it?

ANSWER: I would be tempted to keep taking it at least for the first trimester. It also helps prevent miscarriage, prevent many birth defects and lay down the foundation for the nervous system:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that women who take the recommended daily dose of folic acid starting one month before they conceive and throughout the first trimester reduce their baby's risk of birth defects such as spina bifida by up to 70 percent.

Folic acid may help to prevent miscarriages. The role of folic acid in helping to prevent open neural tube defects is well established, but a recent study in The Netherlands suggests that folic acid (the synthetic form of the naturally occurring B-vitamin folate) may also help to reduce the risk of early miscarriage. Researchers found that women with lower amounts of folate in their blood were more likely to have experienced recurrent miscarriages than women with higher concentrates of folate.

This alone is reason enough to make sure you take folic acid before you get pregnant and during pregnancy, but there may even be other benefits as well. Some studies have shown that women who don't get enough folic acid may increase their risk of miscarriage, as well as cleft lip and palate, limb defects, and certain types of heart defects in their babies.

Your body needs this nutrient for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA, our genetic map and a basic building block of cells, so getting enough is particularly important for the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. Folate is also required for a complex metabolic process that involves the conversion of one amino acid in your blood (homocysteine) into another amino acid (methionine). If you don't get enough folate, you can end up with too much homocysteine in your blood, which is thought to contribute to some birth defects. Elevated levels of homocysteine in pregnancy also have been linked to blood clots, placental abruption, recurrent miscarriages, and stillbirth. Researchers are trying to find out whether taking folic acid throughout pregnancy decreases your risk for these problems. Finally, folate helps make normal red blood cells, prevent anemia, and produce the nervous system chemicals norepinephrine and serotonin.


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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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