Folate is a B vitamin that occurs in food. Folic acid is the synthetic version of this vitamin that is found in supplements and fortified foods.
Thinking About Getting Pregnant?
Congratulations on Your Pregnancy! (for those who are newly pregnant)
What is a healthy pregnancy weight gain?
Can I continue to eat a vegetarian diet during pregnancy?
A Pregnancy Menu For You and Your Baby
Treating Nausea and Vomiting
What About Seafood?
Don't Eat That!
Pregnancy and Cholesterol
Wash Those Veggies!
Breastmilk, the Healthiest Diet for Babies
What DOES that Broccoli Do for My Baby?
Vitamin D Supplements in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
New Research Affirms Individualized Vitamin D Supplementation for Pregnant Women
Breastfeeding: Developing a Future Gourmet
What to Do About The Flu
Decreasing the Risk of Gestation Diabetes
Keeping and Storing Breastmilk
Pregnancy Weight Gain Guidelines – Do We Need New Ones?
Breastfeeding: A Woman's Health Issue
Eating During Labor
Probiotics and a Decreased Risk of Gestational Diabetes
Pregnancy - a Time to be Active!
Clearing the Air : Quit Smoking for You and Your Child
What is a Healthy Pregnancy Diet for Obese Women?
Does Iron Intake Matter?
One Fish, Two Fish... Full Term Birth?
Folic acid in pregnancy and language development
A Mediterranean Diet, Pre-Pregnancy
There is No Substitute for a Healthy Diet
Honest Healthy Diets for Babies
Exercise for New Moms
A Healthy Pre-Pregnancy Diet and Gestational Diabetes
Vitamin D and Gestational Diabetes
Great News About Breastfeeding
Peanuts and Pregnancy
Fried Foods and Gestational Diabetes
Iodine supplements - should you take them?
Prevent Gestational Diabetes with a Mediterranean-style diet
Faith's passion in nursing is to help people find the options they need to discover their personal path to optimum health. Ask her friends and they will tell you that their appreciation of nutritious food has grown through Faith. About Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN
Pregnant women often ask me, "What brand of prenatal vitamins should I take?" before they ask about a healthy diet. My response is that prenatal vitamins can never replace healthy food.
But you have probably heard that taking folic acid supplements help reduce birth defects? Yes and No. There is very good evidence that adequate folate (the nutrient in food) and folic acid (the equivalent substance in supplements) does decrease the rate of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida. Since the US began fortifying cereal grains with folic acid and encouraging folic acid supplements, the number of neural tube defects have declined significantly.
But is folic acid supplementation the complete picture? Could it be that women of child bearing age eat a poor quality diet and that a greater number of birth defects could be prevented if women also addressed other areas of diet quality?
When researchers began to study the role of nutrients in preventing birth defects, they mostly focused on one nutrient at a time and usually looked at supplements instead of general diet quality. This made sense. It was certainly easier to study - divide women into 2 groups, give one group a supplement, don't give it to the other group, watch the results. This early research effectively established that there is a link between nutrition and the risk of birth defects.
But taking a vitamin pill is not the same as eating a nutritious diet. Nutrients are combined in certain ways in food, they also interact within the body. There may be nutrients that we haven't yet discovered or interactions that we don't know occur.
When it comes to reducing the risk of birth defects, a growing body of research indicates that pregnant women and their babies will get benefits from a healthy diet that a vitamin supplement alone can't provide.
I am NOT telling you to stop any supplements that your physician has recommended for you. Your doctor knows your medical and family history, reviews your laboratory results, and is monitoring your health during pregnancy so can make recommendations specific to your circumstances. I am, however, encouraging you to eat an excellent quality diet if you plan to become pregnant and throughout your pregnancy.
Nourish yourself and your child!