“Am I getting enough folic acid?” is probably one of the first questions women ask themselves when they are trying to conceive or are already pregnant. That’s because most prenatal vitamin brands tell us that folic acid is vital to your baby’s early fetal development. But did you know that 50% of women can’t fully absorb folic acid?
We’re breaking down the different forms of folate by unpacking the difference between methylfolate and folic acid, as well as how they’re processed by the body, so you can make the best decision when it comes to your growing little one.
Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9 that nourishes your baby’s developing nervous system and helps protect against certain birth defects, including spinal cord and brain abnormalities. You can get folate naturally from foods like leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits, but it may be hard to rely on diet alone to get the right amount needed for you and your growing baby.
In order for your body to utilize the folate found in your kale salad, it must first be converted into methylfolate. This is just a science-y term for the active form of folate that 100% of women can fully absorb—allowing this vital nutrient to support their babies.
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate—found in most leading prenatal vitamin brands. Just like your body must convert folate into methylfolate, it must also convert folic acid into methylfolate. Unfortunately, 50% of women cannot fully absorb folic acid because the MTHFR enzyme in their body, which is responsible for this metabolic process, may not be working effectively. That’s why advanced prenatal vitamins with methylfolate are so important; they ensure moms can successfully provide this crucial nutrient to their developing babies.
Whether you’re thinking about conceiving, actively trying to conceive, are pregnant or breastfeeding, understanding methylfolate vs. folic acid should be an important part of your planning. Ensure you’re taking a daily prenatal multivitamin that has the right form of folate for you.