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Vitamin Supplements During Pregnancy to Boost Fetal Development

Low birth weight babies are likely to be born to mothers who have low levels of foliate// in their blood according to the reports of a recent study.

Folate is essential for fetal growth and gene expression. It plays an integral role in helping produce and maintain new cells. It is a B vitamin and found abundant in green leafy vegetables, cereals and liver.

Women are usually prescribed folic acid supplements, a synthetic compound of folate, before conceiving and during the early months of pregnancy, to reduce the risk of birth defects involving the nervous system like spina bifida etc.

An examination of the serum folate levels examined revealed that higher folate levels in women were associated with increased birth weight for their babies -- a marker for good health in infancy and later in life. On the other hand, low folate status in early pregnancy has been linked with low infant birth weight. It is particularly to be noted that babies with low birth weight -- 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg) or less -- are more likely to have a low IQ and to suffer from health and developmental problems later in life.

The study also found that women who smoked tended to have lower levels of folate in their blood, which could explain why they give birth to smaller babies. The results of the study support the need for intake of foods such as bread and cereals with folic acid during pregnancy.

So much emphasis is being laid on folic acid supplementation during pregnancy that government itself has taken steps to include folic acid in foods meant for pregnant women. Since the fortification programme began, the number of babies born with spina bifida or another serious defect called anencephaly has considerably reduced.

It is a well known fact that daily supplements of folic acid or food fortified with it can help to prevent heart disease, stroke, blood clots and cognitive decline. Therefore a good amount of folic supplementation
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