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Baby planning: Folic Acid Sources

Look out for bread and cereals with the 'fortified with folic acid' symbol.

On 17 May 2007, the Food Standards Agency Board agreed unanimously that 'mandatory fortification' with folic acid should be introduced, alongside controls on voluntary fortification and advice on the use of supplements.

Mandatory fortification means that it would be compulsory to add folic acid to either bread or flour. The purpose of mandatory fortification with folic acid is to reduce the number of neural tube defects. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) estimated that there are between 700 and 900 pregnancies affected by neural tube defects each year. Read more...

Folic Acid

Department of Health recommends that you start taking Folic Acid as soon as you come off contraception and start thinking of having a baby.

Once you start taking Folic Acid, this should be continued upto the 12th week of pregnancy. Folic acid is especially important in the initial time after conception when the baby's spine is being formed. According to Dr Margo Whiteford, a baby's spinal cord develops within the first four weeks of pregnancy so by that stage its too late. In addition to taking a supplement (a recommended dose of 400 microgram and this may vary depending on your condition and medical history), it is highly recommended that you have a folic acid rich diet as this is beneficial for the development of the baby.

Foods with high folic acid content include green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and spring greens), peas, brussel sprouts, chick peas, broccoli, fortified breakfast cereals and brown rice. Wholemeal bread is also a good source of folic acid. Overcooking vegetables destroys the folic acid and hence steaming is a gentler way to cook than boil. Liver is a great source of folic acid, but is not a good idea when pregnant or planning a pregnancy. This is because it also contains high levels of vitamin A, which may harm your baby.

Women of childbearing age have been urged to take folic acid supplements, even if they are not planning a family. Read more...

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