Taking health-boosting dietary supplements during pregnancy is generally considered healthy. But women who use a high dosage of folic acid supplements up to the second trimester often experience an uncontrolled blood pressure says this new study.
This research is published in the journal Hypertension by the American Heart Association.
Folic acid is an easy to use folate supplement (vitamin B) that is normally found in leafy green veggies, beans, and some fruits. It is essentially required for the body to grow and even during pregnancy women are given folic acid supplements to help in baby’s development. It also saves from all birth-related defects in the newborn. But the ‘standard’ dose that the doctors prescribe is at least 400 micrograms per day.
Gestational hypertension is a condition when the blood pressure increases more than 140/90 mm Hg in pregnant women. Normally these women reported having normal blood pressure and had no signs of excessive protein in their urine (proteinuria).
When a pregnant woman is diagnosed having increased protein content in her urine, she is diagnosed to have Preeclampsia. An untreated and uncontrolled preeclampsia might lead to an even complicated stage where it is called ‘Eclampsia’ and women having eclampsia often experience seizures.
It might look like a rare thing but the reality is that ‘eclampsia’ is extremely common among pregnant women. Every 1 in 1600 pregnant women develops this condition by the end of their second trimester.
The new study talks about the impact of high dose folic acid supplements on a pregnant woman’s body and how they might invite more complications. Untreated high blood pressure could lead to gestational hypertension and even preeclampsia which might lead to stillbirth and growth retardations.
The study analyzed 4,853 women from China who consumed folic acid dietary supplements. Among these, 1,161 women were later diagnosed with gestational hypertension. And other 161 women were diagnosed with preeclampsia.
Considering numerous factors involved, the women who were using more than 800 mcg were reported from the early pregnancy till mid-pregnancy were found at higher risk of developing these problems. The risk of hypertension-related complications among these women was nearly 32% higher than other women who didn’t take any folic acid supplement during the pregnancy.
The risk of gestational hypertension is even higher for women who never had any chance of diabetes or a family history of both diabetes and hypertension. However, there was no such significant link found between folic acid intake and developing preeclampsia.
The significance of folic acid supplements during pregnancy is undeniable. But it is necessary to follow the moderate dose of it if you are to use it daily, says Nianhong Yang from Tongji Medical College, China.who is the first author of this study. He also suggests avoiding taking an extremely high dose of folic acid during pregnancy.
Also read- Mammography Can Save Women’s Lives: Study
There are many studies that talk about the link of folic acid supplements and pregnancy complications but none of them specifically considered the long term health effects on pregnant women. That is why folic acid supplements’ daily dose and timing should also be monitored as these two factors contribute to the risk of many diseases in pregnant women.
Yang also said that there are still many limitations to this study; for example, understanding the role of the folate in pregnant woman’s blood and how it might affect genetic factors. For making a concluding statement, she says that investigating how folate metabolism in the blood affects the woman’s body and the baby growing inside ger is necessary.
This study is significant as it is the first one to prioritize women’s long term health effects by using something as ordinary as folic acid supplements. It requires more detailed research to show how folic acid and gestational hypertension affect natural immunity and folate metabolism.