Anyone who has had a child or in the process of having one has likely heard all about folate supplementation and how important it is to increase Vitamin B9 consumption during pregnancy. It’s an essential part of growth and development in humans, which is why we must consume it on a daily basis -- pregnant or not, male or female, child or adult.
If you’ve been confused with all the folate talk you’ve heard about in social media ads, you’re not alone. We understand how complex of a subject it is and hopefully, we can help you grasp the concept a little more. Trust us; you’d be surprised at how important it is for your body.
For the new mothers, incoming mothers, or those that are merely thinking about having a child, we’ll break down everything you need to know -- including what folate is, why and how your body uses it, why it’s important for mothers and newborns, how much you’ll need, and ways you can increase your daily intake with ease.
Let’s get started!
What Is Folate and Why Do You Need It?
As we mentioned above, folate is the form of Vitamin B9 that occurs naturally in the body and in food. It is often confused with folic acid, which is simply the synthetic man-made form of Vitamin B9. While the average American will be exposed to folic acid in their diet more than folate, a healthy diet would actually be the other way around.
Vitamin B9 plays a wide variety of roles in the body. It’s most notably known for building and repairing DNA and RNA, but it l also helps the body regulate hormones and neurotransmitters, improves gene expression, reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood, and a deficiency has been linked to a variety of birth defects.
The confusion usually begins when trying to decide which form of Vitamin B9 to take. Both folic scid and folate will provide the benefits listed above, but they will each have to go through a series of processes before our bodies can actually use them. The difference between the two lies in how long it takes before becoming available to the body’s cells.
Folate will have a much easier path in the body. It will first need to interact with the MTHFR enzyme to be converted into its active form -- L-Methylfolate. Once converted, the magic begins!
With folic acid, however, the path it has to take would be known as the “long way home.” Not only will it take longer, but there’s a chance a majority of the folic acid you consume never even gets converted into L-Methylfolate, in fact, it can turn into a ‘bad form’ unmetabolized folic acid and clog up your bloodstream. This is why consuming too much folic acid, as opposed to folate, is actually detrimental to your overall health.
How Do Folate Affect Pregnant Mothers and Their Children?
Folate deficiency can be harmful to anyone, but the stakes are higher for pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and the newborns they’re feeding the entire time. Not only will you need to increase your intake for the sole reason of having to support another human being, but you’ll need to do it because it’s important to the development and growth of the baby’s organs.
In fact, folate deficiency has been linked to a variety of birth defects that could’ve been avoided with proper folate supplementation. It can help prevent neural tube defects, anencephaly (brain defect), spina bifida, encephalocele, congenital heart defects, issues with the blood vessels, cleft lip, and cleft palate.
As for the mother, folate supplementation can help keep them healthy and functioning properly throughout the duration of the pregnancy and post-birth. It plays an important role in the synthesis of mood-regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine, helping you feel a little brighter each and every day and keeping postpartum depression away.
There’s a reason doctors are constantly urging pregnant women and new mothers to keep a close eye on their folate consumption and ensure they’re getting an adequate amount daily.
How Much Folate Do We Need On a Daily Basis?
Many people assume keeping track of the foods you eat will be difficult. While it will definitely be something you’re not used to, it’s actually much easier than you’d think. According to the Center for Disease Control, pregnant women or women seeking to become pregnant should consume 400mcg of folate each day -- in addition to the normal amount they eat in food. It’s worth noting that this recommendation was made long before the discovery of the MTHFR gene defects ever happened. So those with MTHFR might need significantly more than that amount to keep themselves and their unborn babies healthy - definitely ask your doctor.
One of the alarming discoveries about folate supplementation is that many women start taking it too late in the pregnancy to have a full effect on the baby. It’s well-known that neural tubes begin forming just four weeks into pregnancy (this is what the brain and spinal cord are developed from). If you haven’t figured out you’re pregnant by then, your baby would have already formed these.
You’ll still need to partake in folate supplementation either way, but it will definitely be worth your while to start it as early as possible -- for both you and the baby. In fact, better yet, if you’re thinking about becoming pregnant, consider supplementing to prepare your body for the baby that will make its home in your body for the next 9 months. The CDC also recommends taking even more than the 400mcg previously discussed if you’re entering pregnancy for a second time.
In fact, there are a variety of reasons why you might need to supplement a higher dosage of folate. Kidney disease, sickle cell disease, frequent alcohol consumption (before pregnancy), or pregnant women that are on medication for something unrelated to the pregnancy.
Other women might suffer from a mutation in the MTHFR gene, which converts folate into methylfolate. For them, folate could be useless and merely excreted from their body. Supplementing with methylfolate will be necessary, that way your body doesn’t have to make the conversion (that MTHfR makes so difficult) on its own -- something that would be flawed by the mutation anyway.
It should also be noted that a mutation in the MTHFR gene could very well be inherited by your little one. It’s a gene that both parents will pass down to the child. The child will inherit a copy from each parent for each of the two well-known MTHFR variants.
Each copy has the potential to house a single or double mutation, meaning you can essentially have between one and four mutations for MTHFR based on the two variants, 677 & 1298, also known as SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms). The more variants you have, the higher chance your MTHFR gene will have of creating faulty folate coenzymes. Passing this down to your child could lead to a deficiency of their own, which you want to watch out for so you can treat it nutritionally as needed.
Common Foods Rich in Folate
In addition to supplementation, it will be essential you maintain a healthy overall diet with Vitamin B9 in mind -- more specifically, folate. As we mentioned previously, avoiding folic acid during pregnancy is one of the best things you can do for you and your baby. As a general rule of thumb, you can never get too much folate but you can get too much folic acid.
Luckily for you, there are a wide variety of high-quality foods that are rich in folate -- the natural form of Vitamin B9. Here are some of the more common foods that you can begin adding to your diet immediately: legumes, asparagus, eggs, leafy greens, beets, citrus fruits, brussels sprouts, broccoli, nuts, seeds, papaya, bananas, and avocado.
If you’re having a difficult time fitting these foods into your diet, speaking to a nutritionist can help you work them in without you even noticing. In addition to that, they can give you other tips and pointers on getting you and your baby the nutrients you need during and after pregnancy.
If you know you have an MTHFR mutation or you know that you don’t want to risk the statistics, (knowing that more than half the population has this mutation) then consider taking the fully activated form of folate, L-Methylfolate which does not need to be converted by your body’s MTHFR - and avoid any potential complication due to lack of folate absorption.
Finding a Quality Supplement for You and Your Incoming Baby
The diet won’t be the only thing in play here. Most doctors will recommend supplementation on top of that to ensure your body is getting what it needs -- especially if the diet isn’t going so well. These supplements can be found in chewable or capsule form, meaning they are easy to use and won’t require a lifestyle change.
At Methyl-Life™, we offer a variety of supplements that are designed for pregnant women and their newborns. We always recommend speaking with a doctor before takking a supplement, but they will almost always say folate supplementation and magnesium consumption are two of the home runs here.
We offer our fully activated L-Methylfolate supplements in easy chewable tablets -- and make it available in different dosages -- 2.5mg, 5mg, 10mg, 15mg. If you want to combine it with other ingredients, we also offer a multivitamin, Vitamin B12, cognitive booster, and other supplements.
Not only that, but we have a special bundle designed for pregnant women just like you. Our Pregnancy/Children bundle boasts Methylfolate, Active B12, Vitamins A, D3, E, B1, B2, B3, B6, B5, and K2, Iodine, Zinc, Selenium, Potassium, Citicoline, Phosphatidylserine, CoQ10 and much more.
This gives you a powerful stack of supplements to keep you strong and healthy throughout the pregnancy -- your little one will be thanking you as well!
We understand how sensitive a time this is for new mothers and we know you just want to do what’s best for your child. Trust us; we want the best for you and your child too -- and we are ready to help!
If you have any questions about our products or are interested in seeing if it’s the right fit for you, contact us today!
“Folic Acid.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Apr. 2018, www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/folicacid/about.html.“Chewable Methylated Multivitamin - L-Methylfolate 1 Mg + Active B12 - Pregnancy/Children - 30 Adult Servings.” Methyl, methyl-life.com/collections/methylfolate-nutrients/products/methylated-multivitamin.