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Folate vs Folic Acid During Pregnancy

By Dr. Olivia Paul (she/her), Naturopathic Doctor

Dr. Olivia Paul, Naturopath at West End Mamas explains which nutrient you need during pregnancy.

Hi everyone. Dr. Olivia Paul here. I wanted to jump on and make a quick video for you explaining the differences between folic acid and folate.

We’ll start by talking about folate which is Vitamin B9. It is the active form of Vitamin B9 and it plays a key role in fertility, pregnancy, and the health of your baby.

Why?

Folate helps with promoting DNA formation, cell formation, and cellular division. And in these ways, it really assists periods of rapid growth such as pregnancy and infancy. It’s also very popularly known to prevent neural tube defects. It can be obtained from the diet through leafy green vegetables, fruits, legumes, and eggs. However, in order to get a therapeutic dose, you have to be eating a lot of those four types of foods. So oftentimes we’ll see the recommendation to supplement during pregnancy or preconception, just to ensure that you’re getting enough so that it can perform that key role in your body.

So if that’s folate then what is folic acid?

Folic acid is actually the synthetic precursor to folate and it requires an extra step in your body to convert from folic acid to folate. It uses an enzyme to do this. That enzyme is called MTHFR or Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase. And this is kind of where things get a little tricky because up to 60% of the population has a genetic mutation that affects the function of that enzyme. And so what that can cause is basically a poor conversion between folic acid and folate.

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Now we have no way of knowing who has that genetic mutation unless you do the screening. And oftentimes no one’s being screened for this unless something in their health history is suggesting this could be going on and it’s affecting other systems. It’s very rare to be tested on a regular basis. This is why supplementing with folate (not folic acid) just helps to kind of protection against the concern that you might be a poor converter from folic acid to folate. If you did have that genetic mutation, supplementing with folate, right from the beginning, can just give you that reassurance that you are getting the active form of that vitamin to perform all of those critical functions. What you want to look for is L-methyl folate listed on your prenatal vitamin and not folic acid.

So that’s it. That’s really what you need to know about folic acid and folate. Is it bad to use folic acids? No, but it’s better if you use folate because it helps us to know that you’re getting the active form of folate and it’s bypassing that need to have that enzyme in the body. Prenatal SAP (by NFH) is the vitamin that we recommend at West End Mamas. It has L-methyl folate in it. A lot of other ones do as well. So it’s just something you want to look for on the ingredient list.

I hope that was helpful for you and we’ll talk to you soon, bye bye.

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