Did you know that…
Each year in Virginia over 50 babies are born with neural tube defects (NTDs), which are serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. NTDs include spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele.
Up to 70% of cases of NTDs could be prevented by taking folic acid, a B vitamin, prior to becoming pregnant.
How much folic acid should a woman consume?
It is recommended that all women of childbearing age take at least 0.4-0.8 mg (or 400-800 micrograms) of folic acid daily. Folic acid is found in multivitamins and prenatal vitamins. Although folic acid is also found in a variety of foods, it is very difficult for a balanced diet alone to provide the recommended daily dose of folic acid. Therefore, a daily multivitamin with folic acid is suggested.
I’m not planning a pregnancy-should I take a multivitamin with folic acid?
Up to 50% of pregnancies in the US are unplanned, so even women not planning a pregnancy should consider a multivitamin with folic acid. A daily multivitamin might also help you feel healthier, have more energy, and improve the look of hair and skin.
Can I start taking folic acid at the time of my positive pregnancy test?
The baby’s spine and brain develop very early in pregnancy, often before a positive pregnancy test. Therefore, to ensure that a woman has an adequate amount of folic acid in her body at the time of brain/spine development, folic acid should be taken at least one month prior to conception and during the first three months of the pregnancy.
I have already had a child with a NTD-should I still take folic acid?
Yes, folic acid is even more important for women who have already had a pregnancy with a NTD. These women need to consume a higher daily dose of 400mg (4,000 micrograms) of folic acid; however, women should not take numerous multivitamins to obtain this higher dose. If you’ve had a child with a NTD, speak to your health care provider before conception of future pregnancies to obtain a prescription for a higher dosage of folic acid.
Perinatal Depression: Brochure