Several abnormalities may occur to fetuses, and they are not caused by genetic diseases, but rather as a result of not providing the body with an adequate amount of folic acid during pregnancy, as taking folic acid, especially in the first three months of pregnancy, contributes to enhancing the protection of the fetus from the risks of these abnormalities.
Folate (vitamin B-9) is important in red blood cell formation and for healthy cell growth and function. The nutrient is crucial during early pregnancy to reduce the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine.
Folate is found mainly in dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas and nuts. Fruits rich in folate include oranges, lemons, bananas, melons and strawberries. The synthetic form of folate is folic acid. It’s in an essential component of prenatal vitamins and is in many fortified foods such as cereals and pastas.
Adult women who are planning pregnancy or could become pregnant should be advised to get 400 to 1,000 mcg of folic acid a day.
Benefits of folic acid for pregnant women.
All girls of childbearing age should take folic acid when trying to conceive, and during pregnancy, especially in the first twelve weeks, because it contains many benefits, including:
1. Protects against neural tube defects that occur during the first 28 days of pregnancy, such as:
▪️ Spina bifida: One of the benefits of folic acid is to protect the baby from the incomplete development of the spinal cord and spine.
▪️ Anencephaly: Folic acid protects the baby from the incomplete development of the brain.
▪️ Cerebral hydrocele: One of the benefits of folic acid is that it protects against encephalomyelitis, which is caused by the protrusion of brain tissue from the skin through an opening in the child’s skull.
Your child may be more likely to have neural tube defects if:
▪️ Either the father or the mother has a neural tube defect, or a family history of the disease.
▪️ A previous pregnancy was affected by a neural tube defect.
▪️ Maternal diabetes.
▪️ The mother took medication to treat epilepsy.
2. It protects against premature birth and low birth weight.
One of the benefits of folic acid is that it protects against low birth weight, and may contribute to reducing the risk of premature birth by at least 50% in women who started taking folic acid for at least a year before pregnancy.
3. Other benefits, including:
▪️ Protects the child from injury to the palate or cleft lip.
▪️ It protects against miscarriage.
▪️ Protects against poor growth inside the uterus.
▪️ Protects against pre-eclampsia.It may protect against other diseases, such as.
▪️cancers, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and stroke.
Folic acid side effects for pregnant women.
There are some potential harms of excessive and prolonged intake of folic acid, including:
1. Increases the likelihood of developing cancers.
One of the harms of folic acid for pregnant women is an increased risk of cancer. It may contribute to the growth of cancer cells, especially colon cancer, and may increase the presence of precancerous polyps.
The reason for the increased risk of cancer when folic acid is taken in excess and for a long time may be due to changes in the process of adding a methyl group to DNA that is necessary for fetal development.
As folic acid causes a decrease in this process, which leads to an imbalance in the regulation of the epigenetic gene, which in turn leads to several diseases, including cancer.
2. Hide vitamin B12 deficiency.
One of the most important harms of folic acid for pregnant women is to hide vitamin B12 deficiency, through one of the following two mechanisms:
Folic acid accelerates neurological damage caused by B12 deficiency, such as dementia.Folic acid may mask iron deficiency caused by B12 deficiency, resulting in no symptoms and delayed diagnosis.
3. Increases the risk of autism.
High intake of folic acid may increase a child’s risk of developing autism spectrum disorders.
As high levels of folic acid in the mother at the time of birth to more than four times the adequate level increases the child’s risk of autism to double.
4. Increases the risk of diabetes.
Taking folic acid in too much or for a long time may cause:
▪️ An increased risk of gestational diabetes, through one of the following:
1. Creating an imbalance between folic acid and vitamin B12, which leads to an exaggeration of the metabolic effects of vitamin B12, and an increase in insulin resistance.
2. Adverse effects of unmetabolized folic acid in plasma that cause decreased action of natural killer cells, and contribute to gestational diabetes.
▪️ Girls’ increased risk of obesity and diabetes in the future.
5. Other damages, including:
▪️ Abnormalities of the oral cleft.
▪️ Respiratory infections.
What are the sources of folic acid?
Folic acid is found in many natural sources, the most important of which are:
▪️ Legumes such as chickpeas, beans, the most important of which is lentil.
▪️ Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, peas, broccoli and okra, in addition to peppers of all kinds.
▪️ Citrus fruits, especially oranges.
▪️ Seeds such as almonds, flax, pumpkin seeds and peanuts.
▪️ Liver in addition to meat, eggs, mushrooms and yeast.
▪️ Fruits such as bananas, grapes and strawberries.
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