Primary benefits of folic acid for women are related to pregnancy and childbirth. Folic Acid, which is a B Vitamin, is essential for the healthy development of a baby in the womb. Other benefits of taking folic acid are the facilitation of cell health and repair, as well as reduction of the risk for heart disease. The most notable benefit of folic acid for women is the reduction of risk of brain defects in their children.
When a pregnant woman does not consume enough folic acid, her baby might be at risk for developing a neural tube defect. Neural tube defects are quite common, and can lead to serious birth defects or even a stillbirth. During fetal development, the neural tube is the basis for what will become a child’s brain and spinal cord. Deficiency of folic acid increases the risk for developmental problems that could result in brain defects.
It is generally advised that women take care to get enough folic acid even if they are not pregnant because the vitamin is needed very early in pregnancy. If a woman is not consuming enough folic acid and becomes pregnant accidentally, she may not be aware of her pregnancy soon enough to start consuming folic acid during the critical stage. Ideally, the role of folic acid for women is to prevent birth defects, but this can only happen if enough of the vitamin is present very early on in the pregnancy.
Even if a woman does not plan to become pregnant, or cannot become pregnant, there are other benefits of folic acid for women. B vitamins like folic acid are good for brain function and memory. They also play an important role in reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease.
Many different foods, such as beans, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and several enriched or fortified cereals, contain folic acid. Women, especially pregnant women, should ideally consume plenty of these foods as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Unfortunately, it is all too common for women to neglect nutritive eating habits, which means they are unlikely to ingest enough folic acid to protect their babies during pregnancy.
Supplements are generally a good way for women to add more folic acid into their diets. Drugstores, natural foods stores, and even many regular grocery stores carry a variety of different supplement brands at fairly inexpensive prices. An alternative, and perhaps an even wiser choice, is to find a multivitamin that contains a sufficient amount of folic acid (approximately 400-800 micrograms). Selecting a multivitamin ensures that women are consuming other important vitamins as well as the recommended dose of folic acid. Overall, the benefits of folic acid for women are perceived to outweigh the inconvenience of taking supplements.