If you're pregnant or might become pregnant, it's very important to get enough folic acid.
Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) is very important for the development of a healthy foetus, as it can significantly reduce the risk of neural tube defects.
Birth defects are health conditions present at birth and can cause problems in how the body works. While not all birth defects can be prevented, a woman can take steps to increase her own chances of ensuring that her unborn child is not born with neural tube defects.
Neural tube defects are birth defects of the brain, spine, or spinal cord. They happen in the first month of pregnancy, often before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and hydrocephaly. In spina bifida, the foetal spinal column doesn't close completely. Hydrocephaly is also known as hydrocephalus and is an abnormal buildup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain. The fluid is often under increased pressure and can compress and damage the brain.
Women who are planning or capable of pregnancy should take a daily supplement containing 0.4 to 0.8 mg of folic acid to reduce their risk of having a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect.
Where can I get folic acid?
The easiest way to get the required daily amount of folic acid is to take a daily multivitamin containing a minimum of 0.4 mg of folic acid. Most pregnancy multivitamins contain folic acid. You can also get folic acid at your local chemist or pharmacy. You should also note that folic acid is given in some hospitals in Nigeria during your antenatal.
Taking a vitamin does not reduce or replace the need for eating a healthy, well-balanced diet so you should eat food high in folic acid, such as green vegetables, spinach and orange juice, as well as foods fortified with folic acid, such as white flour and enriched pasta.