Getting enough folic acid during pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do for your baby’s health. It is so critical to your baby’s healthy cognitive development that experts recommend making sure you’re getting optimal amounts of prenatal folic acid as soon as you consider trying to get pregnant.
What is folic acid?
Folate is a B vitamin that nourishes your baby’s developing nervous system and helps reduce the likelihood of certain birth defects, including spinal cord and brain abnormalities. The synthetic form in supplements and fortified foods is called folic acid. One important study has shown that women who got 400 micrograms of folic acid before conception and during early pregnancy were able to reduce their baby’s risk of being born with a severe brain or spinal birth defect by up to 70 percent.
Taking folic acid during pregnancy is also related to a decreased risk of premature birth. The vitamin is crucial in the development of DNA, too. Folic acid is needed for tissue formation as well as cell development and growth.
Folic Acid vs. Methlyfolate
Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate—found in most leading prenatal vitamin brands. Your body must convert folic acid into methylfolate. Unfortunately, some women may not fully absorb folic acid. Methylfolate is a science-y term for the active form of folate that all women can fully absorb—allowing this vital nutrient to support their babies. That’s why advanced prenatal vitamins with methylfolate are so important; they help mom successfully provide this crucial nutrient to their developing babies.
Why do I need folic acid during pregnancy?
Prenatal folic acid can reduce your baby’s risk of being born with a severe brain or spinal birth defect by up to 70%.
How much prenatal folic acid do I need?
Since some pregnancies are unplanned, and it’s essential that your baby gets folic acid in the first few weeks of pregnancy, experts recommend that all women of childbearing age take a multivitamin that contains adequate levels of folic acid.
- When you’re trying to conceive: 400 mcg
- Throughout pregnancy: 600 mcg
- While breastfeeding: 500 mcg
What foods are a good source of folate or folic acid?
Eating a nutritious diet during pregnancy is important for both your health and your baby’s health. Good food sources of folate or folic acid:
While prenatal vitamins are important for folic acid intake during pregnancy, incorporating folate-rich foods into your diet is just as imperative. Recipes like Lentil Spinach Soup, Vegetable Paella and Salmon with Grilled Asparagus are easy and tasty ways to stay on track. Check out our website for more delicious ideas!
When should I take folic acid, morning or night?
You can take folic acid in the morning or at night with a glass of water. Just make sure you take it at the same time every day.
Does folic acid help conceive?
Studies suggest that folic acid may support fertility. Women who take folic acid are more likely to ovulate (produce eggs). Previous studies found that women trying to conceive had somewhat higher pregnancy rates when taking folic acid supplements. However, the impact of folic acid on fertility remains under investigation.
Can I take too much folic acid?
You can take too much folic acid during pregnancy from multivitamins or fortified foods (i.e. breakfast cereals). Make sure to check with your doctor on how much folic acid your body needs daily.
What are the indications of folic acid deficiency?
The issues associated with folate-deficiency can include:
- Pale skin
- Sore mouth and tongue
Check with your doctor if you think you may have a folic acid deficiency.
Are there any potential issue with taking folic acid?
If taken in an appropriate dosage, folic acid should not cause any issues. Taking prenatal folic acid greater than 1 mg daily can cause abdominal cramps, diarrhea, rash, sleep disorders, irritability, confusion, nausea, stomach upset, behavior changes, skin reactions, seizures, gas, excitability, and other difficulties.
Can you take too much folic acid?
Yes, you can get too much folic acid, but only from manufactured products like multivitamins and fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals. You can't get too much from foods that naturally contain folate. You should not get more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day, unless your doctor prescribes a higher amount.
Is folic acid important after pregnancy?
If you’re breastfeeding, it is recommended to take a women’s multivitamin with 100% of the recommended daily value of all nutrients, including folic acid. You could also continue to take your prenatal vitamin.
How long should I take prenatal vitamins with folic acid after pregnancy?
Prenatal vitamins can be beneficial for nutrition up to 6 weeks after giving birth.
Should I take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid?
While eating a healthful diet with foods rich in folate or folic acid during pregnancy is vital, it can be difficult for many women to get the recommended amount of this vitamin from their diet alone. Taking a prenatal vitamin, can help you get up to 100% of the recommended daily value of folic acid, which is key for your baby’s central nervous system development.
The CDC recommends that you start taking folic acid daily for at least a month before you become pregnant, and every day while you are pregnant. However, the CDC also recommends that all women of childbearing age take folic acid every day. So whether you’re thinking about conceiving, actively trying to conceive, are pregnant or breastfeeding, folic acid can help support your health and your baby’s development every step of the way.