Importance of Folic Acid Before and During Pregnancy

By Sakina Hussain, clinical pharmacist at CHOC Children’s

Consuming folic acid or folate before and during pregnancy can significantly prevent a pregnant woman from having a baby with significant birth defects. Folic acid, which is a B vitamin, is known to prevent neural tube defects—serious birth defects of the spinal cord and brain—by about 70 percent.  Approximately 500,000 babies—3,000 in the United States— are born every year with neutral tube defects.

Who should take it?

All women should take folic acid.  If you want to become pregnant one day, start now.  It is never too early.  It is an essential nutrient for you and your baby.

How much should I take?

You should take 400 micrograms every day.

If you are planning on becoming pregnant, start taking a prenatal multivitamin with folic acid at least one month before getting pregnant, since it takes time for the body to build up sufficient stores of folic acid. Be sure to read the label on the multivitamin to be sure you’re getting the right amount.  It is also very important to eat healthy foods that are good sources of folic acid.  Enriched foods such as cereals, rice, bread and pasta are often fortified with folic acid.  Other foods naturally rich in folic acid are dark-leafy green vegetables, orange juice, beans and corn.

Some women may need more folic acid.  Take to your doctor for advice.

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