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Folic Acid, Fertility, and Pregnancy: Why It’s Important to Take Folic Acid for Fertility

Folic acid works wonders for fertility. If you’re planning on getting pregnant any time soon and have consulted a fertility specialist, then you’re probably already aware of the important role of folic acid for pregnancy. Folate is a member of the B-vitamin group and aids in the production and development of DNA and red blood cells as well as cell division. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of folic acid or folate and the important roles it plays in both male and female fertility.

What Is Folate?

Also known as vitamin B9 and folacin or folic acid in its supplement form, the core function of folate is to create healthy red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells are responsible for delivering oxygen to various organs and cells throughout the body. Folic acid deficiency can lead to the production of oversized red blood cells that don’t function properly, which deprives essential organs and cells of oxygen they need to function. This can have a negative domino effect on the system, especially folate-deficiency anaemia. Common symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, breathlessness, feeling faint, headaches, pale skin, heart palpitations, etc.

Folic acid found in supplements and fortified foods is derived from folate. The body naturally converts folic acid into folate to fulfill its dietary and biological purposes.

The Role of Folic Acid in Male Fertility

It’s not just women who should increase their intake of folic acid for fertility. Men also need a sufficient amount of folic acid as a crucial part of the reproductive process. On average, male bodies create thousands of sperm cells per day (approximately 1,500 every second, in fact). It takes about 60 days for germline stem cells to become fully formed sperm cells. During this process, folate aids in cell division and DNA synthesis.

Research shows that there’s a strong correlation between having sufficient folate levels and excellent sperm health, stability, and count.

The Role of Folic Acid in Female Fertility

Folic acid plays an especially crucial role in fetal development. After all, fetuses start off as a tiny cell that continues splitting all through the development stages. Since folic acid aids in cell division, you can see the connection in terms of how it also prevents certain birth defects like neural tube defects such as anencephaly, spina bifida, and encephalocele. Neural tube defects in their varying forms are defects that negatively impact the brain and spine, causing them to develop abnormally.

People with a family history of neural tube defects have a higher risk of passing on the gene to their children. Folic acid doesn’t completely eliminate the chances of developing this type of birth defect, but it can reduce the risk by about 60% if women planning to get pregnant start taking supplements about 2 to 3 months before conception and through the first trimester of the pregnancy.

How Does Folic Acid Help in Pregnancy?

Folic acid is absolutely crucial to healthy fetal development throughout pregnancy. The duration and dosage of the supplementation required varies on an individual basis. Depending on your current folate levels, your doctor may recommend that you increase your intake through supplementation since dietary folate isn’t always sufficient for pregnancy.

The reason it’s recommended that women start taking folic acid supplements before getting pregnant and throughout the first trimester is because folic acid aids in the development of the neural tube.

When Is It a Good Time to Take Folic Acid?

If the goal is to get pregnant, then ideally you should start taking a daily multivitamin, prenatal vitamin, or folic acid supplement about 2 to 3 months prior to conception and throughout the first trimester of your pregnancy. In the case of an unplanned pregnancy in which you’re not sure how far along you are, you should consult your doctor immediately so they can recommend a prenatal vitamin containing the appropriate amount of folic acid.

How Much Folic Acid Should You Take?

Since folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, it must be replenished sufficiently on a daily basis. Most pregnant women should take about 600 mcg of folic acid every day. While trying to conceive, 400 mcg should be enough. However, if you do have a family history of neural tube defects, then your doctor will likely recommend a much higher daily dosage of folic acid ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 mcg. Folic acid can have adverse effects if taken in high amounts, so it’s important to only do this under strict supervision from a healthcare professional.

Folic Acid Food Sources

Many food items at your local grocery store are fortified with folic acid. In North America, this includes folic acid-enriched bread and cereals. The following is a list of foods that naturally contain folic acid in varying amounts:
  • White rice
  • Asparagus
  • Beef liver
  • Broccoli
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Avocado
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Spinach (boiled or raw)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Mustard greens
  • Green peas
  • Peanuts
  • Kidney beans
  • Papaya
  • Oranges
  • Bananas
  • Turnip greens
  • Tomato juice
  • Wheat germ
If you’re planning on conceiving or are already pregnant, then you should monitor your intake of these foods to ensure that you’re not getting too much folic acid through your diet. Consult with your doctor to maintain safe folic acid levels throughout your pregnancy.

Folic Acid Benefits for Pregnant Women

Aside from preventing serious birth defects like neural tube defects, folic acid has a number of other important benefits for pregnant women, including:
  • Lowering the risk of irregular ovulation
  • Increasing progesterone levels, which increases chances of conception
  • Reduced risk of the baby developing congenital heart defects
  • Reduced risk of preterm birth
  • Reduced risk of low-birth-weight in infants

Schedule an Appointment at a Top Fertility Clinic in Ontario

Overall, folic acid has a lot of advantages during the various stages of conception and pregnancy. At ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo, we offer a variety of fertility services including infertility counselling, assisted hatching, assessment, IVF, IUI, and so much more. We can also make professional recommendations regarding which prenatal vitamins you should be taking to increase your chances of conceiving a healthy baby. Contact us today if you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment.

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