Q&A: I have concerns about being newly pregnant and not taking folic acid.
I've not been taking a prenatal vitamin and just found out I am pregnant. Is that okay?
Since nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, there are probably many other women that are in the same boat. The March of Dimes and healthcare providers of childbearing-aged women have been trying to spread the word about the importance of prenatal vitamins and/or a folic acid supplement in the months prior to conceiving. Research has shown that taking folic acid can prevent neural tube defects by as much as 50 to 70 percent. (Neural tube defects are those found in the spine, skull, and brain.)
The discovery of folic acid’s impact on the reduction of neural tube defects led to the fortification of many products that we consume (such as breads, pasta, and cereals). According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), this fortification led to a 25 percent decrease in neural tube defects. Many women who eat a healthy diet rich in folic acid (dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, fortified cereals) ask why they need the supplement. Current studies show that the synthetic form is actually more effective than folic acid in foods for this type of protection (plus, pregnant women require twice the amount of folic acid that non-pregnant women require).
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for folic acid for pregnant women is 600 micrograms, twice the normal RDA of 300 micrograms for non-pregnant women.
So what do you do now? Start by taking a good look at your diet and talk with your healthcare provider about the best nutritional plan and necessary follow-up for your pregnancy.