Since 1998, the U.S. Government has insisted that manufacturers fortify grain products with folic acid. This change dramatically decreased cases of folate deficiency, according to a March 2018 article in the British Medical Journal. By keeping folate high, neural tube defects in children have also decreased. Researchers have also described a relationship between folic acid and women's periods.
Folic Acid and Menstrual Irregularities
Scientists have repeatedly shown that folic acid intake plays a role in setting the length of the menstrual cycle. Increasing circulating folate levels using a vitamin with folic acid in it stabilizes menstrual cycles, according to an October 2015 report in the Annals of Epidemiology. The report stated that women taking folic acid were unlikely to have short cycles, tending, instead, to have long cycles.
This finding suggests that taking folic acid has benefits for women who take it throughout the menstruating phase of their lives. Women with short cycles remain at risk for menstrual disorders like endometriosis, according to a March 2016 review in the journal Medicine. Also, women with short cycles are less likely to conceive, even with the help of fertility treatments.
Folic Acid and Fertility
Folic acid has benefits for infant health as well. A November 2016 review in PLOS One showed that taking folic acid right before and immediately after getting pregnant makes having an autistic child unlikely. However, women should stop taking folic acid after 12 weeks of pregnancy. Such late use may put an unborn child at risk for asthma.
Vitamins to Increase Progesterone
The mechanism underlying the positive effects of folic acid on menstruation remains unknown. Yet progesterone may contribute. A 2012 report in PLOS One noted that high levels of folate correlated well with high levels of progesterone.
Such a result isn't surprising, given the important role of progesterone during pregnancy. Increasing progesterone may have many health benefits. For example, an August 2013 article in Climacteric suggested that, in addition to repairing brain damage, progesterone can restore menstrual rhythmicity.
Increasing progesterone may have unexepected effects as well. So, it's important to speak with a doctor before taking hormone-altering supplements.
Women who don't ovulate have a greater risk of developing cancer, but restoring menstrual rhythmicity can lower this risk. An article in the September 2016 issue of the American Journal of Public Health stated that getting more folic acid makes ovulation more likely. In contrast, eating unhealthy food makes it less likely.
Anovulation may also reveal an underyling medical condition like metabolic disease or diabetes. People in the U.S. remain at risk for these health problems despite more awareness and early diagnosis. Symptoms of insulin disorders include weight gain and fatigue. Women experiencing anovulation should speak with a health care expert to lower their risk of disease.
- British Medical Journal: Do the Benefits of Folic Acid Fortification Outweigh the Risk of Masking Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
- Annals of Epidemiology: Folic Acid Supplement Use and Menstrual Cycle Characteristics
- Medicine: Length of Menstrual Cycle and Risk of Endometriosis
- Clinical Reproductive Medicine and Surgery: Ovarian Reserve Testing
- Aging Cell: Acceleration of Reproductive Aging in Nrg1flox/flox; Cyp19-Cre Female Mice
- European Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Folic Acid Supplementation and Fecundability
- PLOS One: New Perspective on Impact of Folic Acid Supplementation During Pregnancy on Neurodevelopment/Autism in the Offspring Children
- PLOS One: The Impact of Dietary Folate Intake on Reproductive Function in Premenopausal Women
- New England Journal of Medicine: A Randomized Trial of Progesterone in Women With Recurrent Miscarriages
- Climacteric: Progesterone and Related Progestins
- Journal of Drug Delivery and Therapeutics: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: Pathogenesis, Treatment and Secondary Associated Diseases
- American Journal of Public Health: Contributions of the Nurses’ Health Studies to Reproductive Health Research
- BJOG: Inositol Treatment of Anovulation in Women With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome