Are you pregnant? Or have you made the decision to grow that family you’ve already started? That’s a great first step. But before planning to have a baby of your dreams or to deliver a healthy baby (if you are already pregnant) you should be conscious about some pregnancy care supplements that are essential for a healthy pregnancy.
One such essential pregnancy care supplement is Iron with Folic acid. Folic acid during pregnancy is vital for Pregnant women. Maintaining iron and folic acid levels naturally in your diet or by taking supplements is very much necessary before and during pregnancy. Having said that, here I provide you some information about how iron and folic acid is helpful during pregnancy for a healthy baby.
Iron as a Supplement
Iron plays a vital role in biology, forming complexes with molecular oxygen in hemoglobin, a compound that carries oxygen from respiratory organs to the rest of the body. Ferrous (Fe+2) and ferric (Fe+3) compounds are the iron chemical compounds, which have many medicinal uses. Iron is primarily absorbed in the body as Fe+2, whereas Fe+3 forms are very poorly absorbed. Hence, many pharmaceutical industries use iron ingredient in the form of ferrous ascorbate for better absorption in the body.
How Ferrous Ascorbate is Superior than Iron?
Ferrous Ascorbate is a synthetic molecule of iron and ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid reduces the ferric iron to ferrous iron. Ascorbate prevents oxidation and maintains iron in highly soluble ferrous form which can absorb thrice as much as ferric form. Ferrous ascorbate is essential to treat or prevent iron deficiency anemia and for pregnancy women, especially during early stages of pregnancy. Adequate levels of iron intake benefits the pregnant women as well as the developing baby. Ferrous ascorbate and folic acid help to increase mother’s hemoglobin levels. Ferrous ascorbate and folic acid also helps to prevent neural tube defects (birth defects in brain and spinal cord) in pregnant women.
Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a condition of low red blood cell or hemoglobin levels. It may cause due to insufficient dietary intake, insufficient iron absorption or due to iron loss from bleeding.
Iron deficiency anemia cause more often in women than men. In women over 50 years old, chronic gastrointestinal bleeding due to duodenal ulcers, gastric ulcers or gastrointestinal cancer is the most common cause of iron deficiency anemia. Worms such as parasitic worms, whipworms, hookworms and roundworms cause intestinal bleeding and lead to iron deficiency anemia in children. In case of iron deficiency caused due to insufficient dietary intake then eating iron-rich foods such as lentils, beans, poultry, fish, tofu, leafy vegetables, red meat or taking iron supplements may be helpful for you. If iron deficiency is caused due to celiac disease (damage of small intestine) then intake of gluten-free diet can help you resolve the problem. An iron supplement with ascorbic acid is an essential part of early pregnancy care as it improves the iron absorption and is helpful in the treatment of iron deficiency anemia. Iron folic acid tablets during pregnancy are also essential for early pregnancy care as it can stimulate iron incorporation into the baby’s body.
Why Iron is Essential for Pregnant Women?
A pregnant woman needs approximately 27 mg of iron per day. But due to some reasons they are at a special risk of low iron levels and hence often recommended for iron supplements. Pregnant women needs more iron for growing baby because during pregnancy the amount of blood increases almost 50% more than usual. Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy may leads to preterm delivery, low birth weight, neural tube defects and infant mortality. Iron folic acid tablets during pregnancy are very helpful for the child growth and for an easy delivery.
Caution: Too much of iron intake can cause problems like gestational diabetes, oxidative stress or miscarriage. So, consuming food during pregnancy and taking iron supplements should be done only under the supervision of your healthcare professional. So, after having learnt about Iron, now let us move on to gain knowledge about folic acid.
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid (Vitamin B9 or folate) is a water soluble vitamin, which cannot be synthesized or stored in the body. Folic acid is essential for proper brain functioning and plays a vital role in mental health. It aids in the synthesis of DNA and RNA, and is very essential for rapid growth of cells and tissue during infancy, adolescence and pregnancy. Low levels of folic acid in diet can cause folate deficiency. Conditions like Alcoholism, celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease may also lead to folate deficiency. Certain medications such as antacids (omeprazole) and antibiotics (Trimethoprim) may interfere with folate absorption and lower the levels of folic acid in the body. Folic acid during pregnancy improves growth and development of few important organs.
Problems with Folic Acid Deficiency
Folic acid deficiency can cause tongue inflammation, gingivitis (inflammation of gums), poor growth, loss of appetite, diarrhea, irritability, shortness of breath and mental sluggishness.
Folic acid deficiency in pregnancy women can cause neural tube defects such as birth defects, cleft palate, brain damage and spina bifida (improper development of spinal cord).
The Department of Health suggested that women should take 400mcg of folic acid supplement daily when they are planning to conceive and should continue this dose for first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Dietary Sources of Folic Acid
Dark green vegetables are the rich dietary sources of folic acid.
- Egg yolk
Some fruits such as kiwi and papaya are also abundant in folic acid.
Liver is also a good source of folic acid but it is not safe during pregnancy as liver is also abundant in vitamin A and excess intake may cause birth defects.
Health Benefits of Folic Acid
#1. Blood Synthesis: Folic acid supplementation along with vitamin B12 help in the synthesis of blood cells and aid the rapid cell growth and division.
#2. Neural Tube Defects: Folic acid supplementation before planning pregnancy helps to prevent neural tube defects. 400mcg of folic acid is recommended for those who are planning for pregnancy.
#3. RNA & DNA: Folic acid is very essential for RNA and DNA synthesis that involves in gene and protein synthesis.
#4. Cardiac Health: Folic acid decreases homocysteine levels and helps in the prevention of atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and heart attacks.
#5. Alzheimer’s: Folic acid helps to enhance the memory power and also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It also helps to slow the progression of age related hearing loss in elder people.
#6. Vision: Folic acid supplementation along with vitamin B12 helps to improve your vision as you age. A study suggested that women who took 2500mcg folic acid along with 1000mcg cyanocobalamin and 500mg of vitamin B6 reduce the risk of developing age related macular degeneration.
#7. Cancer: Several research studies suggest that high dietary folate intake reduces the risk of colorectal cancer and prostate cancer. Folic acid helps keep the DNA healthy and may prevent mutations that can cause cancer.
Research Findings on Iron with Folic acid
#1. A research study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that increased use of antenatal (before birth or during pregnancy) iron with folic acid supplements as pre pregnancy care reduced the deaths of children below 5 years of age, especially in the first year of life.
#2. A study conducted over iron and folic acid supplementation related to motor development in anemic infants (5 to 11 months old) concluded that supplementation of iron with folic acid in iron deficient anemic infants improves motor development (movements in arms, legs and feet).
#3. Research study in Indonesia suggested that iron with folic acid supplementation during pregnancy significantly reduced the risk of early neonatal death.
#4. In Venezuela, a study in American Society for Nutritional Sciences concluded that iron with folic acid supplementation helps to maintain safe maternal hemoglobin concentrations during pregnancy.
#5. Research conducted on Vietnamese women, over a 12 month period concluded that weekly iron with folic acid supplementation is associated with improved hemoglobin status and helps in pre and post pregnancy care.
#6. A review study on iron supplementation in non-anemic pregnant women, infants and young children has shown that iron supplementation in infants may improve children’s psychomotor development.
#7. A study in China concluded that antenatal supplementation of iron with folic acid was associated with longer gestation and a decreased early neonatal mortality when compared with folic acid. They suggested that pregnant women need adequate doses of iron supplements to minimize the neonatal mortality.
#8. The National Nutritional Anemia Prophylaxis Programme (NNAP) in India suggested that iron formulation with high bioavailability is successful in decreasing the prevalence of anemia.
So, now you are all well versed with adequate information and necessity of iron and folic acid supplements during pregnancy or before planning for pregnancy.
Share this information with your dear ones who are preparing to have a healthy baby.