Folic acid (vitamin B9) is not produced by the body but must be consumed through the diet. The daily under normal conditions is about 200 micrograms (mcg). This vitamin is present in some food such as green leafy vegetables, oranges, lemons, kiwi, strawberries, legumes, cereals, liver; However, the processes of cooking and food preparation can dramatically decrease the concentration of this vitamin.
It is known that a deficiency of folic acid, also associated with deficiencies of other nutrients (such as vitamin B12) can cause megaloblastic anemia. In general, a folate deficiency can lead more easily to pathological situations such as intrauterine growth retardation or placental lesions.
In pregnancy, for the particular needs of the fetus, the demand for folic acid doubles because this vitamin is essential for the synthesis of DNA and proteins, for the formation of hemoglobin and for the tissues which undergo processes of proliferation and differentiation, as, indeed, embryonic tissues.
As the most common and serious birth defects occur between conception and the 8th-12th week of gestation, it is necessary that supplementation begins at least one month before conception and continues throughout the first trimester of pregnancy.
A deficiency of folic acid in early pregnancy increases the risk of fetal malformation, especially neural tube defects such as spina bifida or anencephaly.
Between effective interventions for primary prevention of congenital malformations, the Ministry of Health recommends that all women of childbearing age who plan to become pregnant, or that otherwise does not exclude the possibility actively, regularly take at least 0.4 mg of folic acid during the period periconceptional. It is essential that the intake begins at least one month before conception and continues throughout the first trimester of pregnancy.