Last month I helped launch Safefoods “babies know the facts about folic campaign”. The campaign is primarily to raise the importance of folic acid for all sexually active women whether or not they are planning a pregnancy.
I’m very lucky to be the mum of a beautiful 4-year-old boy James but I like to do things differently and in life it seems I’m quite fond of the element of surprise. Having been with my boyfriend in the states for a number of years, we separated and I decided to come home to heal my broken heart for a couple of weeks.
That was over 5 years ago now and I’m still here. The reason I am telling you this story is because I was about 10 weeks pregnant when I found out and panic set in because I had not been taking folic acid.
I was even more surprised to hear statistics that 50% of births are unplanned in Ireland although how many of us have surprise siblings and I can’t tell you how many of my friends are having surprise honeymoon, 2nd and 3rd babies at the moment with one of my best friends about to give birth to identical twins in a few weeks which means she will have 4 children under 3! Now that’s a busy household.
But what really concerns me is that Ireland has one of the highest rates of neural tube defects in the world and these types of statistics we can absolutely do something about.
Information is power and as a mother I cannot tell you how important that statement is. When I was living in California I was living a very healthy lifestyle and of course children had been discussed. I had visited specialists because I had various concerns such as polycystic ovaries and pre cancerous cells and we had all sat down and talked about what I might need to do or indeed not do to get pregnant and this included dietary advice but no mention of folic acid. In fact I was under the impression that there was no benefit to taking folic acid until you were actually pregnant and this could not be further from the truth.
If I had been lucky enough to have had access to the type of information we are hearing in this campaign I would definitely have been taking folic acid.
For me personally it would have meant a lot less anxiety and stress because all women get a free gift with pregnancy and its called parental guilt and yes this guilt starts long before your baby is even born.
*It is important to also understand that 1/3 of neural tube defects are genetic and therefore completely outside the mothers control.
You would have to eat 12 ½ heads of broccoli to reach the level of folic acid you need and even my nutribullet can’t help me achieve that. Folic acid is very simply a B vitamin (also known as folate or vitamin B9) and it is a water-soluble vitamin, which helps grow and protect cells in your body. Your body does not store water-soluble vitamins so you need to keep replenishing your supply daily. Foods like fortified grains, spinach, lentils, chickpeas, asparagus, broccoli, peas, brussels sprouts, corn and oranges all contain folic acid but making sure you get enough folic acid every day from these foods is a challenge. This is reason why supplementation is necessary. But the type of and quality of the supplement is also very important as a lot of supplements have binders and fillers. Terranova do a great prenatal Vitamin with 400iu of methylfolate in it. Folic acid is basically a synthetic version of the folate that is found in foods. Folic acid is not found in nature, and the human body cannot use folic acid as it is – it must first be metabolised into it’s active methylfolate form in order to provide it’s benefits and it is in this form in all Terranova products. You can buy it www.evergreen.ie
The neural tube actually forms in weeks three and four of pregnancy and grows into the brain and spinal cord and this is before myself and most of my friends even discovered we were expecting.
This week I asked many of my friends who are trying for babies were they taking folic acid and out of about 15 one said yes so lets try and change that to one saying no.
It is a myth that you only need folic acid when you discover you are pregnant. This campaign is asking for all sexually active women to take folic acid and like everything in life prevention is better than cure and this campaign simply means that as a nation we are putting our most precious cargo first and protecting the next generation.