Had Your Folic Acid Today? Food Safety During Pregnancy

When the time comes to have a child, it is every family’s wish to welcome a happy, healthy baby into the world. Imagine giving birth to a baby with a spinal deformation that causes paralysis, trouble walking and developmental problems. Now imagine finding out that something as easy and inexpensive as taking a daily multi-vitamin may have prevented this tragedy.

Neural tube defects are birth defects that occur very early in pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant. Between the 17th and 30th day after conception, the neural tube forms in your developing baby. This tube will eventually grow to become the spinal cord, spine, brain and skull. When the neural tube fails to develop properly, the results is a neural tube defect that affects the brain (anencephaly) and the spinal cord (spina bifida).

Folic acid, also known as folate or folacin, is a B vitamin that is essential for healthy development of your baby’s spine, brain and skull. If you eat a varied diet based on Canada’s Food Guide, you are probably getting enough folate to meet your own nutritional needs. However, you need more  folic acid to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in a developing baby.

The best way to ensure you are getting enough folic acid is to eat a healthy diet and take a multi-vitamin containing at least 0.4 milligrams of folic acid. Since nearly half of all Canadian pregnancies are unplanned it’s never too early to start taking folic acid. Experts at the Folic Acid Alliance Ontario suggest that all women who could become pregnant, not just those planning a pregnancy, take a multi-vitamin containing 0.4 milligrams folic acid every day.

If you are a woman of childbearing age:

Eat a varied diet based on Canada’s Food Guide. Include some of these high-folate foods every day:

  • spinach
  • broccoli and cauliflower
  • beans and lentils
  • lettuce
  • orange juice
  • green beans
  • canned corn
  • beets
  • green peas
  • nuts, seeds and peanut butter

Also take a multi-vitamin containing a minimum of 0.4 milligrams of folic acid every day. Some examples of multi-vitamins that contain this much folic acid include:

  • Centrum
  • One-A-Day such as Bayer
  • Paramettes Adults Complete such as Whitehall Robins