What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a B vitamin. Getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy can help prevent neural tube defects (NTDs), which are serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. NTDs include spina bifida, anencephaly, and encephalocele. Learn more about folic acid and NTDs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
How much folic acid should a woman consume?
It is recommended that all women of childbearing age take 400 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 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, all women of reproductive age need to get folic acid every day.
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 4,000 micrograms of folic acid 1 month before becoming pregnant and through the first 3 months of pregnancy; 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 when planning future pregnancies to obtain a prescription for a higher dosage of folic acid.
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