vitamin b9

Vitamin B9: Reasons To Take Folic Acid During Your Pregnancy

Discover the importance of taking Vitamin B9 (or folic acid) during your pregnancy and what foods have the highest concentration of this vitamin

vitamin b9
The proper amount of Vitamin B9: folic acid reduces the risk of your baby developing neural tube congenital disabilities like spina bifida.

Most women who are expecting a child, or are thinking about becoming pregnant, know that gynecologists recommend the intake of folic acid during pregnancy. However, many of them do not know the reasons behind this medical advice which is why we have compiled this article, in hopes of answering the most critical questions about Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid or folate. 


What is vitamin B9 (folic acid)?

Folic acid, or vitamin B9 or folate, belongs to the vitamin B complex and plays a vital role in the cell cycle, being essential both in the division phase and in the rapid growth phase. That is why folic acid is especially necessary during pregnancies, as well as during childhood. A folic acid deficiency can harm the embryonic development of the future baby, leading to severe congenital disabilities, the most common one of all being spina bifida.

When to take vitamin B9 (folic acid)

We will have a look at some of the main reasons why it is vitally important to increase the intake of folic acid during pregnancy.

1. To prevent neural tube defects

The neural tube is the embryonic structure from which the central nervous system originates (encephalon and spinal cord), which in turn is responsible for governing all the functions of the human body. The closure of this structure, if the development follows its normal course, will take place around the 6th week of gestation.

The defects of the neural tube could, therefore, happen due to an alteration in the closing of the neural tube. This failure will be located at two levels: the brain and the spine. In the first case, it will lead to anencephaly (absence of encephalon), a tragic condition and incompatible with life; and in the second case,  the person could be born with spina bifida, where the spine has not entirely closed, and the spinal cord is thus unprotected.

Eliminates anemia associated with pregnancy
Folic acid is a form of folate (a B vitamin) that everyone needs. If you can get pregnant or are pregnant, folic acid is especially important.

According to scientific evidence, folic acid supplementation during pregnancy prevents neural tube defects. An intake of  0.4 mg folate per day is recommended for at least three months before conception and until the first trimester of pregnancy is completed. Studies say that it reduces the likelihood of spina bifida in the newborn by up to 70%.

It should be noted that women with a family history, or previous pregnancies of children with neural tube defects, should take up to 10 times more doses: that is, 4 mg per day.

2. Eliminates anemia associated with pregnancy 

Folic acid is necessary for the formation and growth of red blood cells (the blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen). Its deficit produces a type of anemia called megaloblastic (red blood cells are abnormally large and, therefore, unusable).

Anemia, or lack of red blood cells, is physiological in pregnancy. This is because the blood is more diluted since a higher blood volume is needed to satisfy the demands of the new life that is growing inside of us. However, a deficit of vitamins can increase this predisposition, until it becomes a pathological situation.

3. Reduces the incidence of postpartum depression 

Several studies link low levels of folic acid in pregnancy with an increased risk of depression.  During pregnancy, the needs for this vitamin is increased, and supplementing through diet may not be enough. 

The puerperium, or postpartum, is a particularly critical stage for those women vulnerable to depression, where hormonal changes occur, together with the physical and emotional stress of childbirth or cesarean section, can end up triggering the condition known as postpartum depression.

Vitamin B9, or folic acid, is necessary for the correct synthesis of serotonin,  a chemical substance with a leading role in the regulation of mood. The antidepressant drugs act by increasing the brain levels of serotonin, and adequate levels of folic acid would then be a natural method of prevention against depression.

What foods contain vitamin B9?

leafy greens
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and arugula are bursting with many vitamins and minerals, including folic acid.

1. Leafy greens

Some good examples of leafy greens packed full with Vitamin B9 are spinach, lettuce, arugula, chard, even parsley, which can be added as a condiment to main dishes, finely chopped. Another good option to add to your diet is the fashionable kale. 

2. Other vegetables 

Broccoli, Brussels sprouts or asparagus are some examples of folate-rich vegetables. Remember that folic acid is thermosensitive, and certain methods of cooking could cause it to lose its properties. The ideal way of preparing these vegetables is by steaming them. 

3. Legumes

Among the most popular Vitamin B9 rich legumes we have beans, chickpeas, peas and, above all, soybeans.

4. Whole cereal 

Alcohol-free beer is a source of folic acid recommended by gynecologists, so don't be surprised when you see a pregnant woman drinking what appears to be a beer. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds also contain Vitamin B9. 

5. Fresh fruit 

The stars of this category are citrus fruits (natural orange juice is the drink that provides the most folic acid), avocado, banana, and melon.

6. Dry fruit

Good examples of dry fruit that contain folic acid are nuts, almonds, and hazelnuts, to mention a few.

When to take Vitamin B9 (folic acid)?

vitamin B9
Take folic acid at the same time each day, either in the morning OR in the evening.

Ideally, you should begin taking folic acid before you start trying to conceive. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that a woman trying to conceive begins a folate supplement at least a month before conception. 

This is because folate plays an incredibly important role during early development. In fact, sufficient folate is most beneficial in the first 28 days after conception—which often overlaps with the period during which a woman doesn’t yet know she’s pregnant. 

The best option is to  ask for an appointment with your gynecologist for a consultation and aim to optimize the chances of conceiving and planning a healthy pregnancy. They will explain when you have to start folic acid supplements and how to plan your diet accordingly.

Check out the original article: Ácido fólico en el embarazo: 3 razones por las que no puede faltar durante la gestación at