Folic acid for pregnancy: benefits, when and how much to take (2023)

Folic acid is the man-made version of folate, a B vitamin that plays multiple roles in the body. During pregnancy, one of its most important functions is to prevent a group of birth abnormalities called neural tube defects.

The neural tube is a structure in the human fetus that develops into the brain and spinal cord.

Neuralrohrdefektehappen when the neural tube does not close early in development. This dysfunction can cause severe disability and even death.

This article explains the benefits of taking folic acid during pregnancy, when to take it, and how much to take.

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folic acidis a synthetic (man-made) form of folic acid. Folate is a type of B vitamin.

Everyone needs folate, but it's especially important during pregnancy as it plays a role in preventing birth abnormalities.

TheFood and Nutrition Councilrecommend that adults consume 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily, increasing to 600 mcg during pregnancy and decreasing slightly to 500 mcg during breastfeeding.

Folic acid is the manufactured form of folate, an important B vitamin that occurs naturally.

(Video) Pregnant women advised to continue taking folic acid supplements

Learn more about folic acid and folate here.

A person can get folic acid in their diet by taking supplements and eating foods fortified with folic acid, such as: B. Some breakfast cereals. A person can check the nutrition label to see if a food is fortified with folic acid.

Many foods — including spinach, avocado, and banana — contain folic acid, the naturally occurring form of this vitamin.


In the alternative health community, a popular myth suggests that people with certain variants in theMTHFRGen cannot process folic acid. However, research has shown that this is not true.

Proponents of this myth claim that pregnant women need a different form of folic acid or that folic acid is even harmful. They can use this myth to sell supplements or promote alternative health scams.

According to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),MTHFRGene variants are common.MTHFRMutations are not a disease, and people with mutations in this gene do not need an alternative form of folic acid.

People with this genetic difference can metabolize all forms of folic acid, including folic acid.

Additionally, folic acid is the only type of folate directly linked to the prevention of neural tube defects. Therefore, people should take folic acid regardless of the typeMTHFRgene they carry.

Folic acid helps the bodybuild new cells, including red blood cells.

People who don't get enough folic acid can develop a condition called folic acidFolate deficiency.

In people with this condition, the body cannot make enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. This impairment can affect many aspects of health, including organ function.

During pregnancy, a person needsmore folic acidthan usual because folic acid also supports the growth and development of the fetus. One of their most important tasks is preventionNeuralrohrdefekte, including spina bifida and anencephaly.

(Video) Why You Should Take Folic Acid BEFORE Pregnancy

Spina bifida is a condition in which the bones of the spinal cord do not close completely. It can cause a range of disabilities that can affect development, mobility, and overall health.

A baby with anencephaly either does not develop a brain or the brain is very underdeveloped. In almost all cases, anencephaly is fatal, either in the womb or very soon after birth.

Some researchalso suggests that folic acid reduces the risk of pregnancy complications such as preterm labor, problems with developing the placenta, and other birth abnormalities such ascleft palateand heart disease.

Anyone wishing to conceive should start taking folic acid supplements before attempting it.

This is because neural tube defects occur early in development, often before a person knows they are pregnant.

Because about half of the pregnancies are unplanned, say expertsrecommendthat every woman who can become pregnant takes folic acid supplements. This ensures that even in the event of a surprise pregnancy, the likelihood of neural tube defects is low.

Folic acid is water-soluble, which means it can be metabolized quickly by the body. For this reason, those who take folic acid supplements need to take one every day.

There is no need to take the supplement at a specific time of day or with a meal. However, if you develop a habit, such as For example, taking a prenatal vitamin with breakfast each morning can make it easier to remember to take folic acid.

The CDC notes that in most cases, each pill contains folic acid or a multivitamin400 mcgof folic acid. A person can check the supplement label to confirm this.

how much to take

(Video) How long do I have to take folic acid during pregnancy? - Dr. Anupama Rohidekar

TheAmerican College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)recommend taking a daily supplement of 400 µg folic acid, regardless of how much folate a person is consumingin their diet.

A person should not take more than1,000 mcg of folic acidper day unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Too much folic acid can mask symptoms of aVitamin B12 Deficiency.

Foods naturally high in folic acid, the natural form of folic acid,contain:

  • Banana:24 mcg per medium-sized fruit
  • Spinach:131 mcg per half cup cooked
  • Black Eyed Peas:105 mcg per half cup cooked
  • Avocado:59 mcg per half cup
  • Broccoli:52 mcg per half cup
  • Orange juice:35 mcg per three-quarters cup
  • Asparagus:89 mcg per four spears
  • The Brussels sprouts:78 mcg per half cup

Fortified cereals like breakfast cereal and oatmeal are also high in folic acid. A person can check the label to know the exact amount.

It is possible to get enough folic acid through diet, but ACOG still recommends taking a dietary supplement during pregnancy.

It is safe to combine folic acid supplements with naturally occurring folate in the diet.

It isnot possibleto get too much folic acid from food. However, it is possible to get too much folic acid from supplements, including fortified cereals.

A person does not need to monitor their daily intake of dietary folic acid, but should monitor their use of supplements containing folic acid.

Prenatal vitamins and many multivitamins contain folic acid. Individuals taking multiple supplements should check each label to ensure they are not taking more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid per day.

(Video) Benefits of having folic acid supplements before conceiving- Dr. Nupur Sood

AStudy 2020of mice found that both too much and too little dietary folic acid damaged brain development in mice offspring before birth.

Scientists need to investigate more closely whether this is also the case in humans.

Folic acid can improve the chances of getting and staying pregnant.

AStudy 2016of nearly 4,000 women compared those who took folic acid with those who didn't.

The participants who took the supplement were more likely to become pregnant. In those whose cycles were irregular or very short or long, folic acid was even more closely correlated with pregnancy.

Additionally, folic acid may help prevent pregnancy loss, as some birth abnormalities, including neural tube defects, can lead to this complication.

Folic acid is an essential nutrient for everyone, but it is especially important during pregnancy.

Individuals planning to conceive may want to speak to a healthcare provider about proper dosages of folic acid. Anyone who is already pregnant can use a folic acid test to determine how much folic acid is in their blood. The result can indicate the possibility of having a baby with neural tube defects.


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