Folic acid plays a role in tissue growth and fetal development during pregnancy. A new study that was presented at an annual congress for British psychologists in Brighton shows that folic acid supplements may even improve the child’s psychological development. This is vital for the child’s ability to handle his or her own feelings and managing socially.
It is common knowledge that folic acid supplements are important for fetal development during the first three months of the pregnancy. Lead researcher Tony Cassidy and his colleagues wanted to study whether there were added health benefits from continuing the folic acid supplementation throughout the entire pregnancy.
The scientists asked the parents of 39 children, currently aged seven years, to fill in a questionnaire about their children’s personality, including questions about their mental sturdiness, their relation with others, and their way of expressing their own feelings. Twenty-two of the mothers in the group had taken folic acid supplements through the entire pregnancy, while the remaining seventeen had only supplemented with folic acid during the first three months.
The researchers observed that children of mothers who had supplemented through their entire pregnancy generally had a higher level of mental sturdiness and emotional intelligence. Moreover, levels of folic acid in the mothers’ blood in the final stage of their pregnancy served as a useful indicator of the development of the children’s mental stability and emotional intelligence.
Planning a pregnancy and new views on folic acid
The reason why women of childbearing age are advised to start supplementing with folic acid before planning to become pregnant is that the vitamin prevents neural tube defects in the newborn child. The neural tube in the fetus normally closes one month after conception. From this point onward, it develops into the brain and spinal cord. In cases where the neural tube fails to close properly, a deformity occurs that prevents the brain from developing normally, and this may cause stillbirth. The vitamin deficiency may also result in heart defects and spina bifida that can lead to severe handicaps with e.g. leg paralysis.
Although these complications are rare, it is vital to start taking folic acid from the time the pregnancy is planned.
According to Tony Cassidy, who headed the new study, it may be an advantage to continue taking folic acid throughout the entire pregnancy, simply because folic acid appears also to be linked to a positive development of the child’s psyche.
Besides, folic acid is important for the pregnant woman and her health, her energy levels, and her mental balance.
How much folic acid does the pregnant woman need?
The RI (reference intake) level for adults is normally 200 micrograms of folic acid daily, while the official recommendation for women of childbearing age is 400 micrograms daily, starting one month before and continuing three months into the pregnancy to lower the risk of having a baby with neural tube defects and spina bifida. As mentioned earlier, it is important to start taking the vitamin as soon as the pregnancy is planned. Now, with the results of the new study, it may even be a good idea to take the supplement throughout the entire pregnancy.
Deficiencies and poor utilization of folic acid may be a result of
Nutrition insight. Taking Folic Acid Throughout Pregnancy May Increase Children´s Emotional Intelligence. 12 May 2017
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