Your Pregnancy - - Bump Talk -

Tak­ing fo­late should be­gin long be­fore you con­sider get­ting preg­nant. So says Tina Visser, a med­i­cal ad­viser for women’s health at phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Bayer. We know that neu­ral tube de­fects (NTD) such as spina bi­fida and anen­cephaly can be sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced if women sup­ple­ment their di­ets with folic acid. Tak­ing fo­late at the right time can’t be em­pha­sised enough as the first and most ob­vi­ous in­ter­ven­tion mech­a­nism to re­duce the in­ci­dence of NTDs, par­tic­u­larly among women in their re­pro­duc­tive age. Fo­late has a well-es­tab­lished pro­tec­tive role against the oc­cur­rence and re­cur­rence of NTDs. NTDs are ma­jor mal­for­ma­tions re­sult­ing from the fail­ure of the neu­ral tube to close prop­erly, and can have se­ri­ous con­se­quences for a child’s qual­ity of life. Nor­mally, the neu­ral tube closes in the first few weeks of preg­nancy, of­ten be­fore a woman even knows she’s preg­nant. About 300 000 ba­bies world­wide are born with NTDs every year. In­fants with spina bi­fida – when the bones of the spine (ver­te­brae) don’t form prop­erly around part of the baby’s spinal cord – have vary­ing de­grees of paral­y­sis of the legs or loss of bowel or blad­der con­trol. While the causes of NTDs are not known, it is thought to be a com­bi­na­tion of ge­netic and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors. While doc­tors do not know how to elim­i­nate all in­stances of NTDs, we do know that folic acid in­take pre­vents some forms of NTDs. The best early preven­ta­tive mea­sure is to build up the level of fo­late among child­bear­ing women. Since fo­lates be­long to the group of B vi­ta­mins and can’t be pro­duced by the body, women should talk to their doc­tors about sup­ple­ment­ing with fo­late be­fore even con­tem­plat­ing get­ting preg­nant. Fo­late fa­cil­i­tates a num­ber of essen­tial func­tions within the body, in­clud­ing en­abling the healthy de­vel­op­ment and growth of the foe­tus in the womb. Women are at an ad­van­tage if they have good fo­late lev­els by the time they con­ceive. Re­search sug­gests that the risk of NTDs can be sub­stan­tially re­duced if women sup­ple­ment their diet with a daily in­take of folic acid at least a month be­fore and dur­ing the early weeks of preg­nancy. Check with your doc­tor for new con­tra­cep­tive pills that are for­ti­fied with fo­late, and which stay in your sys­tem for up to three months. That way, if you’re plan­ning on fall­ing preg­nant, your body will have enough fo­late to help pro­tect your foe­tus from NTDs, even when you stop tak­ing the con­tra­cep­tive.

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