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Negative Impact of Excess Folic Acid Consumption When Pregnant

Is pregnant? Maybe the doctor has repeatedly reminded you not to forget to take folic acid. Yes, this one nutrient is indeed needed by pregnant women so that the fetus is protected from congenital abnormalities.

Folic acid or vitamin B9 is needed by the fetus as these nutrients play an important role in producing red blood cells. Folic acid also helps support the development of the fetal nerve tube to become the brain and spinal cord. But keep in mind that folic acid has different safety degrees for pregnancy, depending on the dose.

In the recommended dosage according to your age and condition, folic acid supplements are considered safe for consumption during pregnancy. But on the contrary, doses that are too high can be unsafe for consumption during pregnancy.

Folic acid is an important substance to support normal nerve cell growth and function. Folic acid deficiency, especially in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, has been shown to increase the risk of birth defects called neural tube defects.

These disorders include developmental disorders of the brain and spinal cord. The brain does not develop (anencephaly) and the skull bone does not close perfectly. The spine and the nerves in it also do not form and close perfectly. In the end, this disorder can cause permanent disability to death.

Although it can provide significant benefits, consumption of folic acid can not be excessive. The study conducted by Raghavan et al. from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2016 said that excessive levels of folic acid in the blood of pregnant women can increase the risk of babies experiencing autism spectrum disorders (ASD). It was stated that babies of mothers with high blood folic acid levels during childbirth, which is more than four times the normal level, had twice the risk of experiencing ASD.

Actually, studies that tried to confirm the relationship of folic acid supplementation during pregnancy and the risk of autism in children had begun since 2012. But until now the results are still conflicting with each other.

Even so, one thing that can be concluded from the studies that have been done before is: deficiencies and excess consumption of folic acid both bring less impact on pregnancy. The experts are aware of this, so what needs to be sought further is the optimal dose of folic acid which provides the greatest benefits and the smallest risk for pregnant women and their womb.

Risk of experiencing autism

Meanwhile, excess folic acid is associated with an increased risk of children born with autism. A study shows that pregnant women with very high levels of folate during childbirth are twice as likely to have children with autism compared to mothers with normal folate levels.

The researchers also found that pregnant women with excessive levels of vitamin B12 were three times more likely to have autistic children. In fact, the risk of a baby born under autism conditions is 17 times higher if pregnant women experience excess folic acid and vitamin B12. Unfortunately, the study does not explain how a woman can have excessive levels of folate or vitamin B12 in the body during childbirth. However, research data say that this condition can be caused by consumption of vitamin supplements and dietary patterns during pregnancy and the presence of genetic disorders that cause it. This risk alone still needs further research.

Safe dosage of folic acid

Sources of folic acid can be obtained from natural foods, supplements, and fortified food products. Because folic acid is the active form of folate (vitamin B9), this compound is rarely found in natural foods.

Simply, you can find folic acid in multivitamins, vitamins for pregnant women, as well as a single supplement, also in fortified cereal, bread, and milk products. In its natural form (folate), you can get these nutrients from dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and oranges.

Regarding the dose needed during pregnancy, the latest guidelines state that pregnant women need to consume 400–800 mcg of folic acid per day to prevent neural tube defect disorders. This amount is a combination of folic acid obtained from natural foods and supplements.

Can You Meet the Need for Folic Acid from Food Only?

Folic acid can be found naturally from some foods, namely:

  • Green vegetables like spinach and kale. Half a cup of cooked spinach contains about 115 mcg of folic acid.
  • Citrus fruits, lemons and grapefruit or grapes.
  • Nuts.
  • Whole grains, including in the form of cereals or bread, rice, and pasta made from whole grains.
  • Half a cup of boiled lentils contains 179 mcg of folic acid.

However, unfortunately the body is not able to absorb folic acid nutrients from natural foods as easy as absorbing from folic acid supplements. That's why it's important to take vitamin supplements with folic acid every day.

Side Effects of Consumption of Folic Acid Supplements

Although generally consumption of folic acid is quite safe, but in some people can experience the following side effects:

  • Bloated
  • Hard to sleep
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feel depressed, or otherwise, that is too excited
  • There is a strange taste in the mouth

Meanwhile, a rare side effect is the increased risk of developing colon or rectal cancer when taking folic acid in very high doses.

Excess Signs of Folic Acid

If you consume too much folic acid, you may experience the following complaints.

  • Lack of concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Limp
  • Confusion
  • Tingling or numbness

Consult your doctor before taking folic acid supplements, especially if you have anemia or feel you are anemic, or if you are allergic to folic acid. Take folic acid at the same time every day to prevent forgetfulness and consume it twice or more.

The recommended dosage of folic acid during pregnancy may change later. Because basically, further studies are still needed to determine the dose of folic acid that is safe but optimal in supporting fetal health and development during pregnancy. Therefore, do not hesitate if you want to consult periodically with a doctor related to meeting the needs of folic acid during pregnancy.

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Is a health and wellness enthusiast. In him free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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