Folate in Pregnancy: Why Folic Acid is the Supplement of Choice
Pregnancy is a critical period in a woman's life, and proper nutrition is paramount for the health of both the mother and the developing fetus. One essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in fetal development is folate. However, there has been a lot of talk regarding which type of folate is the optimal choice in pregnancy. Today, we will explore the differences between methylated folate and folic acid and discuss which may be the better choice during pregnancy.
Why is folate so important in pregnancy?
Folate, a B-vitamin, is vital for the formation of DNA and the development of the neural tube in the early stages of pregnancy. Neural tube defects, such as spina bifida or anencephaly, can occur when there is a deficiency in folate. To prevent such complications, we recommend folate supplementation during pregnancy.
What is Methylated Folate?
There has been increasing recommendations on the internet for reproductive age women or those who are trying to conceive to take Methylated folate, also known as 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate). This is because some individuals may have gotten tested for MTHFR deficiency*. MTHFR is the protein that helps the body process folate, while Methylated folate is a folate supplement which is the biologically active form.
Now, even though someone has an MTHFR gene variation, studies have shown that the body can still process all types of folate including folic acid.
Enter Folic Acid
In general, it is recommended for all reproductive age women to obtain 400mcg of folic acid every day. If someone has a history of a pregnancy affected by a neural tube defect then it is recommended to consume 4000mcg of folic acid each day.
Most importantly, folic acid is the only type of folate supplement that has been scientifically studied and proven to prevent neural tube defects. Not only is it widely accessible, but also cost-effective. Therefore, folic acid is the folate supplementation of choice in pregnancy over methylated folate.
As always, feel free to bring us any questions you have about supplements that are recommended and/or safe in pregnancy during your visits!
(*In the past, there was increased screening for MTHFR gene variations/deficiency in relation to inherited thrombophilias in pregnancy and recurrent pregnancy loss. However due to lacking evidence in its significance, it is not currently recommended to screen for MTHFR gene variants/deficiency.)