Prenatal Folic Acid: Your First Step in Pregnancy Nutrition

Find out the powerful impact this vitamin can have on your baby’s central nervous system development—and where to find it.

Getting enough folic acid during pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do for your baby’s health. Folic acid is so critical to your baby’s healthy cognitive development that experts recommend making sure you’re getting optimal amounts as soon as you consider trying to get pregnant.

The Power of Prenatal Folic Acid

Folate is a B vitamin that nourishes your baby’s developing nervous system and helps protect against certain birth defects, including spinal cord and brain abnormalities. The synthetic form in supplements and fortified foods is called folic acid. Studies have shown that women who got 400 micrograms of folate 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 is also related to a decreased risk of premature birth. The vitamin is crucial in the development of DNA, too. It’s needed for tissue formation as well as cell development and growth.

The Prenatal Folic Acid You Need

Since many 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.

  • Before you get pregnant, doctors recommend getting 400 micrograms a day of folic acid or folate. (Remember: Doing just this can reduce the chances that your baby will be born with a neural tube defect by 70 percent.)
  • Once you’re pregnant, it’s recommended that you get at least 600 micrograms of folic acid or folate a day.

Good Sources of Folate or Folic Acid

Eating a healthful diet during pregnancy is important for both your health and your baby’s health. Good food sources of folate or folic acid:

  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Grapefruit
  • Fortified cereals
  • Orange juice

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, such as Enfamil® Expecta® Prenatal Supplement, which provides 100 percent of the daily value of folic acid, is key for your baby’s central nervous system development.