folic acid

Folate v. Folic Acid While Trying to Conceive

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So you’re trying for your miracle baby and it’s been a few months…or years.

You’ve decided it’s time to boost up your supplements and folic acid is high on the list. Everyone knows that folic acid is the key to a healthy pregnancy… or is it?

Folate can be found naturally in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards as well as broccoli, lentils and other foods.

In honor of January’s National Folic Acid Awareness Week, this short article is all about the differences between folate and folic acid. More specifically, we will cover how these differences affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term.

First of all, folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Folate refers to the natural form of multiple water soluble B vitamins, as well as B9 itself. Folic acid, however, is a synthesized version created in the 1940’s which became a common ingredient in “fortified foods” in the late ‘90s.

Folate is indeed critical for pre-conception and prenatal care. Folate deficiencies can cause:

1. Anemia
2. Neural tube defects which affect the brain and spine in early pregnancy (the most common result is spina bifida)
3. Increased risks for cancers and other diseases

I’m just trying to take a prenatal that won’t make me constipated! Why is this so complicated?!

I’m just trying to take a prenatal that won’t make me constipated! Why is this so complicated?!

Okay, so folate is really important. But what’s the big deal about the synthetic version? Is it really that bad?

The problem with standard, unmethylated folic acid is that unlike it’s natural counterpart, it taxes the liver to be broken down. The liver cannot keep up with the amount of folic acid we consume, nor is it fully equipped to process it. Folate was traditionally broken down in the small intestines, so the liver does not have the same power to keep up with the high amounts we are consuming. As a result, we have excess folic acid.

Excess folic acid increases chances of cancer (especially colon and prostate) and it masks b12 deficiency. Most importantly for couples trying to conceive, it can increase chances of miscarriage for some couples.

People with the mutated MTHFR gene ( with some sources finding up to 40% of the population have the mutation) are at the greatest risk of folic acid usage. Folic acid usage with couples (either partner) with the gene increases chances of miscarriage and fertility problems, among other issues.

The saddest part about this problem is that folic acid is in everything. In an effort to prevent birth defects, synthesized folic acid is required in cereals and grain foods. It’s also routinely used in even high quality prenatals and preconception vitamins. So what can you do?

Research, research, research! Be sure that when choosing a fertility enhancing supplement or prenatal that the folate is sourced from whole foods and not synthesized. When looking for a vitamins, remember that “folate” is used interchangeably with folic acid on bottles. Be sure to check the label to see which form they have included.

Find a vitamin that uses folate (derived from foods like the ones listed below) or a methylated version.

Folate can be found naturally in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards as well as broccoli, lentils and other foods. These should make up a huge part of your pre-conception care diet!

If you need more help figuring out the right supplementation or need a whole built-for-you fertility plan to take you from trying to conceive to pregnant, set up a consultation. Our fertility coach can help you find the right supplements and guide you through our 12 week process of getting pregnant faster. If you’re in the New Orleans/Kenner area: you’re in luck! We’re having another 12-week group workshop series starting April 1. You can get more information here.

Love, light and baby dust