Folic acid is an essential vitamin (B9) for women who are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant, may become pregnant, or are breastfeeding. Folic acid is important during pregnancy, particularly during the early phases, because it can help prevent neural tube defects and other birth defects such as spina bifida, anencephaly, a cleft palate, cleft lip, and other heart & limb defects. Additionally, your body needs folic acid to make red blood cells as your uterus expands and is vital for the production, repair, and working of DNA.
Is folic acid important before pregnancy?
Neural tube defects occur in the first 3 to 4 weeks of pregnancy, many times before a woman even knows that she is pregnant. The CDC recommends taking a prenatal vitamin up to a month before you become pregnant. Taking folic acid before you are pregnant may reduce your baby’s chances of developing neural tube defects by up to 70% and reduces the chance of delivering early but up to 50%.
How much folic acid should I be taking?
Women how are able to get pregnant should take between 400-800 mcg of folic acid per day. If you are trying to conceive, you should be taking it at least a month before, generally as part of a prenatal vitamin. You should take at least 600 mcg once you get pregnant and at least 500 mcg when breastfeeding. Most doctors recommend women keep taking a prenatal vitamin while breastfeeding to ensure they getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need.
What else about folic acid intake should I know?
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have had a child with a birth defect or a relative who has had spina bifida; it is likely you will need to get more folic acid. If you are past your childbearing years, ask your doctor how much folic acid you need. Too much folic acid may cause your body to hide the symptoms of B12 deficiency.