If you’re becoming a surrogate, you’ve probably heard that getting enough folate is essential for the baby’s health. But, why it’s important, how much is enough, and when you need to be mindful of your intake are rarely discussed. Here’s a more in-depth look at the miracle nutrient, so you can ensure the baby you’re carrying gets off to the best start possible.
Folate is an “Essential Micronutrient”
When people speak of folate, what they’re really getting at is Vitamin B9. Folate is one type of it, which is found naturally in lots of foods; particularly leafy green vegetables. The synthetic version, folic acid, comes with the same benefits, but would be what you’re likely consuming if you take a supplement. Folate is considered “essential,” because your body cannot manufacture it—you must get it in your diet. It’s further referred to as a “micronutrient” because your body doesn’t need much of it. A healthy adult needs only 400 micrograms (mcg) per day, while women who may become pregnant are usually told to beef up their intake to 400-800 mcg per day, per the Mayo Clinic. For comparison, carbohydrates are considered a macronutrient. Generally speaking, 45-60% of your diet should be carbohydrates, which means you need hundreds of grams per day, as opposed to micrograms, or millionths of a gram, like you’d need to take in of a micronutrient.
It’s Easy to Be Deficient in Folate
While folate is found in abundance of foods, it is degraded in the cooking process. If you’re especially curious, you can view specific cooking methods and folate degradation levels on the full USDA chart, but suffice it to say, you could get half as much folate (or less) than your food started with if you cook it. Because of this, the US government now mandates that certain products, specifically grains and things like cereals, be fortified with folic acid.
Folate Deficiency is Risky for You and the Baby
When adults are deficient in folate, primary concerns are stroke, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, babies rely on folate for healthy cell development as well, meaning women who may become pregnant absolutely must get enough folate in their diets in order to ensure the baby develops normally. This is why the US mandated enrichment in certain foods; simply because about half of all pregnancies are unplanned, meaning a whole lot of folate-deficient women were getting pregnant unintentionally and putting their babies at risk. Moreover, the CDC notes that the risk window for some of the most severe birth defects occurs early in a pregnancy, meaning permanent damage can be caused by folate deficiency before a woman even realizes she’s pregnant.
Birth Defects Commonly Associated with Folate Deficiency
Spina Bifida (“open spine”)
Anencephaly (“absent brain”)
Talk to Your Doctor About Your Folate Needs
The importance of getting adequate folate cannot be overstated, and if you’re becoming a surrogate, you’re in a great position to ensure you’re getting enough. After all, it’s hard to imagine a pregnancy that is more pre-planned than yours. However, it’s important to note that too much folate is a concern too. While it’s difficult to take in too much folate consuming natural whole foods (which is why so many are deficient), the body processes folic acid differently and it can take a bit longer to break down and be absorbed. Ergo, folate supplementation, or any kind of supplementation for that matter, should be discussed with your physician. Your doctor will likely run bloodwork and then set your dose or recommend you take a traditional prenatal supplement with folic acid in it, so defer your questions to him or her to ensure you and the baby stay healthy.
Work with EDSI if You’re Interested in Becoming a Surrogate
If you’re interested in becoming a surrogate, there’s much to learn throughout the process. At EDSI, we walk surrogates through every step, so they and the precious cargo they’re carrying stay protected. Start by checking out the surrogate guidelines, and then reach out to us when you’re ready to move forward.