Taking folic acid before you become pregnant and for the first 3 months of your pregnancy can help your baby’s spine and brain develop properly and help protect your baby against neural tube defects, such as Spina Bifida, which literally means, split spine.
Most women know they should take folic acid but only one in four women take it prior to becoming pregnant. So why is that?
Common barriers listed by women to taking folic acid are low relevancy; a lack of advice to take folic acid; a belief that contraception is effective and simply forgetting to take folic acid.
Let’s focus on the last one. Since half of pregnancies are unplanned, all women who may become pregnant are advised to take a daily folic acid supplement, whether they are planning a baby or not. So how do you make it easier to remember to take folic acid daily?
By making it a habit, something you do automatically, without needing to think about it. Here’s how:
- Start by weighing up the costs and benefits – What is this change going to cost you, for example effort or time or money (just a few cents a day), and how are you going to benefit (a much reduced chance of having a child with spina bifida or another Neural Tube Defect)
- Know the facts – Get all the info on why it’s beneficial to take it, how much you need to take and when.
- Commit to establishing a new routine. – we are talking about taking a tiny tablet each day. Decide that you are going to do it. For a low effort your baby (even if it’s far into the future) may benefit hugely.
- Set a routine time to take it – morning with breakfast is often good. Use prompts and cues to help you with that. You can set an alarm on your phone, or use an appor a pill dispenser.
- Be prepared –keep your folic acid handy, maybe near or tooth brush, or just pop it in your handbag.
- Create a socialnorm – don’t be afraid to talk to your friends about taking it. Taking folic acid doesn’t mean that you are planning a baby. It just means that when you do have a baby sometime in the future, you are already helping to protect their health. If all your friends are taking it, it will make it easier for everyone.
- What you are doing is important – for the first few weeks it might be nice to reward yourself when you manage to take it every day. This could mean buying yourself a magazine or go bigger if you have a bit of spare cash to splash.
It will take a few weeks before the behaviour becomes automatic. If you forget, don’t give up, just start again and stick with it for the long-haul.
For more information and advice on folic acid.