Folate vs Folic Acid ( What you need to know)

Folate vs folic Acid

folate vs folic acid: What does folate acid do for me and my baby, and do I really need It?

Last updated 20th April 2024

Do you want to start a family naturally or through reproductive medical help, or have you just found out you are pregnant? Very exciting times!

With the accessibility of the internet, it should be easy to work out what is best for your fertility, as well as your pregnancy, but with an overload of conflicting information, it can be confusing.

In this blog post, I will look at folate vs folic acid, I’ll explore the different types of folate acid and discuss which type is best for pregnancy and fertility. So, if you’re pregnant or planning to conceive, read on to learn more about this essential nutrient and how to choose the right type of folate acid for your needs.

Folic acid in pregnancy: Why is folate acid vital for fertility and pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a critical time for both you and your developing foetus, and proper nutrition is essential to support a healthy pregnancy. One nutrient that is particularly important during this time is folate acid. Folate acid is a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in foetal development, especially in the early weeks of pregnancy.

Folic acid pregnancyFolate acid in pregnancy can help in a few ways:

  • Promotes ovulation: Folate helps to regulate the menstrual cycle, which is essential for ovulation. Studies have shown that women who consume more folate have a higher chance of ovulating regularly.
  • Supports healthy sperm: Folate is important for the production of healthy sperm, as it helps to prevent DNA damage and supports the formation of new sperm cells.
  • Reduces risk of birth defects: Folate is important for the development of the neural tube, which forms the brain and spinal cord in the early stages of pregnancy. Adequate folate intake reduces the risk of neural tube defects and other birth defects.
  • Folic acid in pregnancy also Improves fertility treatment outcomes: Folate supplementation has been shown to improve fertility treatment outcomes, including in vitro fertilization (IVF) success rates.

Folate vs folic acid: So which folate acid is good for me and my baby?

folate fertilityNot all folate acid supplements are created equal, and choosing the right type of folate is important to ensure maximum benefits. The following two folate acids are the most common you will find in supplements – if you want to work out if that supplement you have at home is the right one, have a read down the ingredient list and see which one appears on it!

Folic Acid:

Folic acid is actually a synthetic form of folate and is hard to convert in the body. It’s commonly added to foods and supplements to help prevent folate deficiency. However, not everyone can convert folic acid to its active form, which means it may not be as effective for most people. (The most well-known pregnancy supplement has this type of folate. This same company also produces agricultural chemicals).

Folinic Acid:

Our cells can directly utilize folinic acid, which is a more natural form of folate. It is occasionally referred to as “5-formyltetrahydrofolate” or “5-FTHF” for brevity. Unlike folic acid, folinic acid doesn’t require the same conversion process to become active, which means it is bioavailable and is a better option for most people.

Folate acid is not just for you!

As mentioned above, sperm can also greatly benefit from folate acid. Research has shown that folate deficiency can have a negative impact on male fertility. In One study, men with low folate levels had a higher risk of sperm abnormalities, including reduced sperm count, motility, and morphology.

Another study found that folate deficiency was associated with increased levels of oxidative stress in sperm, which can lead to DNA damage and impaired sperm function.

Folate also plays a role in reducing homocysteine levels in the body. Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced by the body, and high levels of it have been linked to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. In men, high homocysteine levels have been associated with reduced sperm count and motility.

Folate helps break down homocysteine and remove it from the body, improving sperm health.

So, if you plan on falling pregnant, have your partner or donor take folate acid. If you are going through an IVF clinic for donor sperm, ask whether the donor had been taking folate acid before their donation.

 

So where do I get the best folic acid for pregnancy?

Although folate naturally occurs in many foods, such as leafy greens, legumes, and fortified cereals, many people may still struggle to obtain sufficient amounts of this nutrient in their diet. Therefore, supplementation is necessary for some individuals, especially pregnant women, men, and women who are trying to conceive, as well as donors who want to donate high-quality sperm, to meet their daily folate requirements.

A health professional will typically prescribe you supplements containing the more bioavailable folinic acid rather than the hard-to-convert folic acid. Great brands are Naturobest, Eagle, and BioCeuticals. Anything you can buy off the shelf at the supermarket or chemist will probably not be what you need, so I would advise you to avoid them. 

So, when you are ready to start trying, or if you need some extra support because you have found out you are pregnant, give me a call! Let me get you some real, high-quality, folate acid, to help you and your bub! (AND YOUR PARTNER!!).

Dr Alice Morgan is a registered Chinese Medicine practitioner who is passionate about all things fertility, periods, stress, and well-being. Helping people to live a healthy lifestyle fills her cup just as much as reading in her cozy living room with her cat curled up next to her.
She is available Tuesday – Thursday 2pm-8pm and Saturdays 9am-3pm.

 

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