In the long list of vitamins and supplements you are supposed to take before and during your pregnancy, you might have read about folic acid supplementation. Folic acid has many benefits even outside of pregnancy, including lowering your risk of heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer. In pregnancy, folic acid has been known to decrease the likelihood of cleft lip, maternal high blood pressure, premature delivery, miscarriage and low birth weight. The vitamin assists in cell production and cell division, including the creation of red blood cells. It is found in some grain products, but many people take it as a vitamin supplement. However, there have been some proven negative side effects to taking folic acid during your pregnancy. Some studies show a link between women taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy and asthma in the children born to them.

A recent study tested the association of folic acid and perinatal asthma. The results showed that there was in fact an association, and children born to mothers who were taking folic acid supplements had asthma in more instances. Whether or not you should let this deter you from taking the supplement is simply a matter of personal choice. As with many outcomes in pregnancy, there are both benefits and disadvantages, so you have to weigh the positive outcomes with the risks. Premature birth and low birth weight can have negative effects on a child through his or her life, but asthma can obviously do the same.

If you don’t feel comfortable taking supplements because you are afraid of giving your child asthma, consider adjusting your diet so that it’s high in foods with natural folic acid. That way, you’ll reap some of the benefits without overdoing it. Asparagus, dried beans, broccoli, bananas, spinach, oranges, peas, and nuts are all high in folic acid.

Always speak with your health care provider before making any dietary changes during your pregnancy, but do keep in mind that folic acid has both advantages and disadvantages, according to research. Since the benefits of folic acid in pregnancy have been proven to start even before gestation, consider adding these foods to your diet in preparation if you are of childbearing age, even if you are not trying to conceive. However, before adding folic acid to your diet in pregnancy, consider the risk of asthma and decide on your own if it’s worth it.

Source: Melissa J Whitrow et al: Effect of Supplemental Folic Acid in Pregnancy on Childhood Asthma: A Prospective Birth Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology Volume 170 Issue 12 pp. 1486-1493 October 2009