Why Is Folate So Important During Pregnancy

During pregnancy the need for the proper production of DNA and RNA, which folate is critically involved, is incredible. During the first few weeks of pregnancy the neural tube that extends from the brain and runs the length of the upper body develops rapidly. Defects to the neural tube tend to occur early in pregnancy, typically around the third and fourth week, and are often irreversible. These abnormalities, including spina bifida, are devastating and possibly fatal. Prior to the federal government making it mandatory to fortify grain products with folate, the incidence of neural tube defects in the United States was 1 in 1,000. Today, that incidence is drastically reduced. Furthermore, researchers have determined that folate supplementation just prior to and early in pregnancy can lower the risk of neural tube defects by at least 60 percent. Good reason indeed for starting a prenatal supplement prior to conception and being sure to take it early in pregnancy.

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