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The Truth About Folate and Pregnancy

Updated on May 23, 2015

A new study suggests that folate in early pregnancy is linked to increased lung problems in the offspring of those mothers, but don't be too quick to pass up on the folate supplements from your doctor. Here's why...

Why Do Mums Need Folate?

When I was studying health science, our biology lecturer told us about the importance of folate in early pregnancy to prevent neural tube defects (NTD). NTD can lead to Anencephaly and Spina Bifida, among others. Although folate doesn't prevent NTD, studies have shown a statistically significant reduction in NTD from taking folate, hence all mothers are advised to take a supplement.

Neural tube formation occurs in the first month of pregnancy before women are even aware they are pregnant, therefore women who are actively trying to get pregnant are advised to take folate supplements.

How Much Folate Does Mum Need?

To help protect against NTD, a woman requires about 400 micrograms of folate. Considering that 1 medium orange only has 40mg of folate, 1 medium banana has 20mg of folate and 8 strawberries has 80mg of folate, it is not surprising that many women don't consume enough naturally occurring folate through diet alone. If you don't like to supplement, here are some tips to help you increase your daily folate intake.

What Does the New Study Say?

"...infants whose mothers took folate supplements in the first three months of pregnancy were slightly more likely than other infants to have wheezing and/or respiratory infections up to the age of 18 months. These children were also 24 percent more likely to be admitted to hospital for treatment of their respiratory infection."

Now I'm just wondering - are the increased occurrences of wheezing and/or respiratory infections on up until the age of 18 months, after which the child is fine? Or does the study only examine the children up until the age of 18 months. I went to dig up the study and found that it only studied infants up until the age of 18 months. So there is a likelihood that the higher risk of respiratory illnesses continues beyond 18 months.

However, the conclusion of the study was that "Folic acid supplements in pregnancy were associatedwith a slightly increased risk of wheeze and lower respiratorytract infections". Since the risk is slight, I think this might be a case of "the benefits of folate outweigh the risks of taking it". I'm sure giving birth to a baby with spina bifida is definitely worse than having a child with a slightly higher risk for respiratory problems, don't you?

More articles from Figur8 on Babylicious.

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