It is important for women to take L-methylfolate, the active form of folic acid, during pregnancy. L-methylfolate is an essential substance needed to help prevent pregnancy complications, such as spina bifida or other neural tube defects. To help prevent these problems, women who are of childbearing age should consume at least 400 mcg of folic acid daily from vitamins or dietary means.
Studies have shown that folate can reduce the risk for neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, when taken immediately before and during the first trimester of pregnancy. It can also help prevent anemia in the pregnant woman. Because L-methylfolate is the active form of folic acid, it can be used instead of folic acid.
Because many pregnancies are unplanned, it is normally recommended that all women capable of becoming pregnant take 400 mcg of folic acid daily, obtained through diet or vitamins. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for pregnant women is 600 mcg per day. Women with a history of a pregnancy complicated by neural tube defects are usually advised to take 4 mg (4000 mcg) a day.
Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid. Some of these vitamins contain as much as 1000 mcg (1 mg). However, L-methylfolate is found in some products in addition to, or instead of, folic acid. Examples of prenatal vitamins that contain L-methylfolate include:
Women with a genetic variation of the gene for the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) enzyme may not adequately break down folic acid into L-methylfolate. Prenatal vitamins that contain L-methylfolate instead of folic acid may be more effective for these women. However, this type of genetic condition is not likely to be common.
Some supplements contain doses of L-methylfolate that are even higher than the recommended amount for pregnant women. At this time, it is unknown whether these high L-methylfolate doses are safe for use during pregnancy.
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