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Folic acid: An important way to prevent birth defects

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Saturday, April 20, 2013 | 0 comments

Expecting Baby, by Petr Kratochvil
Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9 or folate) is one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida, which affects about one in 1,000 pregnancies each year in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control 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.

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.

If you're like most people, you don't get the amount of folate you need from your diet, and research shows that the body actually absorbs the synthetic version of this vitamin (found in supplements and enriched foods) much better than the version that occurs naturally in certain foods.

What are the best food sources?

Dark leafy greens are also a good source of folate, as are legumes such as lentils and chickpeas. Other sources include the following:
• 1/2 cup cooked lentils: 179 mcg
• 1 cup boiled collard greens: 177 mcg
• 1/2 cup canned chickpeas: 141 mcg
• 1 medium papaya: 115 mcg
• 1 cup cooked frozen peas: 94 mcg
• 4 spears steamed or boiled asparagus: 88 mcg
• 1/2 cup steamed broccoli: 52 mcg
• 1 cup strawberries: 40 mcg
• 1 medium orange: 39 mcg

Full article:

Photo Credit: Expecting Baby 
by Petr Kratochvil

Image: Zita West's Guide to Getting Pregnant, by Zita West. Publisher: Thorsons Publishers (August 1, 2005)-Zita West's Guide to Getting Pregnant
by Zita West

-- A pioneer in the field of fertility, Zita West's programme is invaluable for couples trying to conceive.

Harley Street's most popular fertility expert, and favourite consultant to celebrity clients, guides the reader through a process of vital physical and mental preparation.

The book is for every couple trying to conceive and has fascinating advice taken from Zita's 20 years of experience as midwife and 7 years as an acupuncturist.

It provides a structured, easy-to-follow step-by-step programme, complete with case studies and and enormously detailed questionnaire.

The guide includes details on:
• when and how often to have sex
• what can prevent fertilization and conception
• everything you need to know about sperm and ovulation
• nutrition, supplements and herbs
• complementary therapies such as acupressure, lymphatic massage and hypnotherapy
• how to overcome stress and other emotional blocks to pregnancy
• PCOS, endometriosis and other health issues
• tests and procedures if there is a problem
• and much much more.

Image: Buy Now on Amazon.comPaperback: 400 pages
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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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