Folic acid can protect your baby from more than spina bifida, it protects from any neural tube defect, including hydrocephalus, where fluid gets trapped in a baby’s brain causing it to swell frighteningly. This great medical advance stemmed from discovering that folic acid was necessary for the earliest embryonic step in brain and spinal cord development when it forms from the neural tube.
Without folic acid in those early stages, the spine can fail to fuse into a complete tube, hence spina bifida, where the baby is born with their spinal cord open. Research has shown a woman needs sufficiently high levels of folic acid in her blood to ensure that the neural tune will close normally. This is best assured if a woman’s folic acid levels are topped up BEFORE she conceives three months before. So, if possible, I advise starting folic acid three months before trying for a baby at a dose of 400 micrograms daily, right up until the 12th week of pregnancy. Now this miraculous vitamin has been found to have added magic: it can lower the chances of your baby having autism.
A recent Norwegian study measured the rate of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, in babies born to mothers who did or didn’t take folic acid supplements during pregnancy. It found there was a significant lowering in the risk of ASD in children born to mothers who took folic acid. The study found that children born to mothers who took folic acid early in pregnancy had a 40% lesser chance of having ASD. To protect against the severest form of autism folic acid had to be taken four weeks before conception to eight weeks after.
In the UK many women start taking folic acid too late and very few start before pregnancy. But it’s worth doing. Folic acid also helps prevent late speech acquisition at age three compared to other children. Start folic acid early!
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