WHAT IS FOLATE?
What is Folate/Folic Acid?
You’ve probably heard about it. Folate (Folic Acid). Something vaguely about your baby needing it, so it’s in Prenatal Vitamins.
I just wanted to make a quick plug about this! This is SO important because by the time most women find out they are pregnant (about 6-8 weeks along), or even suspect that they may be pregnant due to a missed period (around 5 weeks), a lot of damage could have already been done by not taking enough folate!!
Folate is a type of vitamin B. It helps build DNA and is important for growing/dividing cells, such as the beginning few weeks of a pregnancy when the cells are dividing the most quickly.
Folate helps prevent birth defects of the baby’s spine such as spina bifida (where a part of the back is open and the spinal cord is bulging out) and anencephaly (a part of the head or brain is absent). These defects happen in 1/2000 pregnancies. More than half of them could be prevented by taking enough folate!
Most women are only getting about half the amount they need, though it depends on diet. Good sources of Folate include dark green veggies, nuts, beans, melon, and citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit).
Doctors recommend that all women who could potentially become pregnant (“Reproductive Age,” about 15-45 years old) get 0.4 mg of Folate every day. Most Prenatal Vitamins have this amount. If you’ve had a baby with a spine defect in the past, you’ll need even more Folate per day.
If you are sexually active and not using any kind of birth control, I strongly recommend that for the possible future baby’s sake, to start taking Prenatal Vitamins or at least Folate every day.
Even if you don’t plan on continuing the pregnancy if you were to get pregnant, 1) you don’t know how you will feel when you actually are pregnant, and 2) if you end up having one pregnancy with a spine defect, you have a much greater chance of having a future pregnancy with a defect as well.
This is why I strongly urge everyone to think about their reproductive status. If you’re at a reproductive age, you are EITHER choosing to get pregnant, or choosing to not get pregnant. There is no area in between.
Many patients have told me “I don’t want to get pregnant, but if it happens, it happens.” Or they just shrug their shoulders, not believing it would actually happen to them. Nearly half (45%) of ALL pregnancies in the US were unintended (not on purpose, or unplanned). Every year, 5% of all women have an unintended pregnancy!
If you are in another country, the statistics change, depending on the resources available, education, culture (unfortunately many countries men and women are not treated anywhere near equally), and a number of other factors.
I am ashamed of my home country – the US has one of the highest rates of all the developed countries!
This is why I feel SO strongly about birth control, and that women should take control of their bodies, rather than let their bodies control them, or leave it all up to chance. It does not have to be hormonal. Talk to your doctor about the copper IUD (Intra-Uterine Device), or barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms, etc. Anything is better than no birth control method at all!
If you have to remember to take a pill (Prenatal Vitamin) every day anyway, why not try taking birth control pills? There are low dose ones with very low amounts of hormones in them, if you are concerned about side effects.
If you say no to all birth control, you are basically saying “I am ok with getting pregnant at any time, and I realize this is very likely going to happen at some point if I continue like this.”
According to the Guttmacher Institute, by age 45, more than HALF of all women in America will have had at least 1 unintended pregnancy, and 3 out of 10 will have had an abortion.
If you say no to any birth control, PLEASE, take folate. For the sake of a baby. Give him/her the best chance possible for a healthy life.