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Do I Need Folate When I’m Pregnant?

Folate. It almost sounds like a toothpaste brand, but it’s completely different. As part of your pregnancy journey you will make checklists of all the things you need to do to prepare for your little bundle of joy. Take a parenting class? Check. Get the nursery ready? Check. Get more Folate? Wait, what?

As a mommy-to-be, you need Folate, but you may not know its purpose. It can also get confusing when you hear Folic Acid in the same sentence.

When getting ready for and during your pregnancy, your little one will need a lot of nutrients from your body. Let’s talk about it.

What is the difference between Folate and Folic Acid?

There is often confusion about the difference between Folic Acid and Folate regarding supplementation. Folate is the natural form of Vitamin B9 and is usually found in foods, while Folic Acid is a manufactured synthetic form. Folate can refer to the many forms of Vitamin B9, which include Folic Acid, DHF (Dihydrofolate), THF (Tetrahydrotate), and more.

You often find Folic Acid in processed foods and some supplements (not ours!). Food items such as bread, pasta, rice, and breakfast cereals tend to have folic acid.

Folate, on the other hand, will be in whole foods such as:
  • Orange and apple juices
  • Fruits like avocados, grapefruits, and oranges
  • Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, lima beans, and red kidney beans
  • Vegetables such as mushrooms, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, green beans, sweet corn, lettuce, broccoli, and zucchini
  • Most nuts
  • Eggs

What are the benefits of Folate?

Some of the best reasons to add Folate to your pregnancy supplementation are the many health issues that can be avoided. When your pregnancy diet doesn’t contain enough Folate, your baby’s neural tube may not close correctly. When this happens, neural tube defects occur.

The neural tube forms the early brain and spine. It’s the central nervous system of the baby. The purpose is to serve as the embryonic brain and spinal cord.

Some of the health problems usually associated with a neural tube not properly closing are:
  • Anencephaly: Which is an incomplete development of major parts of the brain.
  • Spina Bifida: The incomplete development of the spinal cord or the vertebrae. You may be having some scary thoughts, but the good news is that Folate can protect your baby from neural tube defects.
  • Encephalocele: When the brain tissue protrudes out to the skin through an opening in the skull.

Usually, these defects will happen during the first 28 days of pregnancy. Most women don’t even know they’re pregnant at this point in their journey. It’s vitally important for a woman of childbearing age to get enough Folate in their diet and doubly important if they’re trying to become pregnant.

There’s no clear information on why Folate has such effects on preventing neural tube defects, but some experts believe it's located within our DNA. When Folate is limited, it creates an imbalance in our DNA precursor pool, and uracil may be misincorporated into the DNA.

Folate or Folic Acid helps to:
  • Make DNA
  • Repair DNA
  • Produce red blood cells
Think of your body as a computer. If it’s given the wrong parts or information, it won’t work as it should. That’s a super simplistic way of looking at neural tube defects.

The good news is when you take Folate before and during your pregnancy, you can protect your baby against:
  • Poor growth in the womb
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage
  • Cleft lip and palate
  • Premature birth
You can also reduce your risk of several ailments such as:
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Heart disease
  • Some cancers
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke

Is a Folate deficiency common?

It’s rare, but the severe complications from it are profound. It’s essential to ensure that when you’re pregnant you get enough Folate in your diet. You can experience Folate deficiency anemia, which occurs when there is a lack of Vitamin B12 or Folate. This will cause the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that can’t function properly. If your diet is naturally low in fresh fruits, vegetables, and fortified cereals, you could have a Folate deficiency.

You may be experiencing Folate deficiency anemia if you have these common symptoms:
  • Low energy levels
  • Tiredness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Problems with sight
  • Memory loss
  • A tingling feel throughout your body

It only takes a few weeks to build a deficiency, so be consistent with your diet and nutritional plans.

What are the side effects of Folate and Folic Acid?

Since Folate comes from natural sources, such as fruits and vegetables, it’s unlikely to cause side effects.

Folic Acid does have some side effects, but most aren’t experienced. They include:
  • Appetite loss
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
It can still be confusing which supplements to take for your pregnancy, but when you can, find one with Folate over Folic Acid to reduce side effects. A natural supplement is always going to be better than an artificial one. Shoo, Folic Acid!

Should you take a Folate supplement when planning to get pregnant?

If you are planning on getting pregnant or are already pregnant, you should take a Folate supplement to help prevent birth irregularities. Your body needs Folate to function properly.

A diet with a good range of foods will ensure you get the proper nutrients you need for well-being.

Take a trusted supplement like our Pink Stork Folate and couple it with a good Vitamin D supplement. You’re doing great, and educating yourself on how to be your advocate is always a good idea. The more you know, the more you start doing.

Contact our Customer Obsession Team if you have questions or need to talk to someone.

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For your pregnancy journey, we recommend our Total Prenatal + DHA. Also try our NEW Prenatal Probiotic and Morning Sickness Sweets.