Before women even know they’re pregnant, the baby’s brain, heart and spine have already begun to form.
The spine develops from a part of the embryo called the ‘neural tube.’ If it does not form properly, babies are born with ‘neural tube defects’ such as spina bifida (‘split spine’). Children with spina bifida may be unable to walk or take care of themselves.
Folic acid, one of the B vitamins, will help your baby’s spine to develop properly. It’s important to:
1. Eat more food containing folic acid. Follow our tips below to keep your levels topped up.
2. Eat foods with added folic acid such as breakfast cereals.
3. Take a daily folic acid supplement designed for pregnant women.
How much do I need to take?
Take a daily tablet containing 400 micrograms (sometimes shown as 400 mcg or 0.4 mg) from the time you start trying for a baby and for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. This will make sure you have enough when your baby is developing most rapidly – even before you realise you’re pregnant.
Where can I get it?
You can get folic acid from chemists, health food shops and some supermarkets. If you get free prescriptions, ask your doctor for it. If you have had a previous pregnancy affected by spina bifida, or are taking medication for epilepsy, talk to your doctor as your needs may be different.
To top up your folic acid levels, eat these:
- Brussel sprouts, spinach, asparagus, spring greens, broccoli, curly kale or beetroot; don't overcook as it destroys the folic acid.
- Blackberries, raspberries and satsumas.
- Black-eyed beans, brown rice.
- Yeast and meat extract spread.Peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts and sesame seeds.
- Bread and breakfast cereals often have added folic acid too; check the label.