Folic acid and pregnancy

Advice on the importance of folic acid during the early stages of pregnancy with information on folate rich, or fortified foods and folic acid supplements.
Folic Acid (also known as 'Folate') is a naturally occurring B vitamin (B9) that can be found mostly in leafy green vegetable, orange juice and enriched grains. It is important in the manufacturing of DNA and red blood cells.

Taken daily before conception and very early in pregnancy when the neural tube is developing, it helps prevent babies being born with a serious neural tube defect. Women who get 400 micrograms (0.4 milligrams) daily can reduce this risk by up to 70%.

A neural tube defect is a birth defect of the brain and spinal cord. The most common neural tube defects are spina bifida (an incomplete closure of the spinal cord and spinal column), anencephaly (severe underdevelopment of the brain), and encephalocele (when brain tissue protrudes out to the skin from an abnormal opening in the skull).

Neural tube defects occur during the first 28 days of pregnancy, which is usually before a woman even knows she's pregnant. Given that only 50% of pregnancies are planned, some would argue that all woman of childbearing age should take folic acid, and not just those who are tring to get pregnant.

Folic acid is found naturally in the following foods (although this is by no means an exhaustive list):
  • Fortified Breakfast Cereals
  • Orange juice (from concentrate is best)
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Strawberrys
  • Enriched breads and pasta
  • Peanuts
It can be difficult to get 400 micrograms of folic acid every day from your diet, so the best way to ensure you get enough is to take a vitamin supplement with 400 micrograms of folic acid. It is also important to eat a healthy diet including those foods that contain folate on a regular basis.

Remember, folic acid only works if taken before and during the first few weeks of pregnancy. Therefore, you should be taking folic acid supplements on a daily basis while you are trying to get pregnant, as well as for the first couple of months of your pregnancy.

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Hi. This is my second pregnancy in a span of 1year. I lost my baby last June 2010 at 35weeks due to cord accident. And now Iam already 15weeks pregnant. My doctor asked me to take Folic acid for 2 weeks when we learned that iam 5 weeks pregnant. On my 7th week, she asked me to stop taking it and just asked me to take MOLVITE OB. I am 15weeks pregnant and been taking folic acid again for a week now. I'm just worried because like what was mentioned in this article, pregnant women should take folic acid during the entire first few months of pregnancy. As i mentioned, i took it for 2weeks then stopped and start taking it again at 14weeks. Is that ok? :((
by kershia 11th Nov 2010, 9:01am
when do i stop taken folic acid?
by PearlyPearl 5th Nov 2010, 10:12am
I am six weeks and it's planned, so I started taking folic acid tablets a few months back. There is no guarantee my baby will be healthy though, ensuring you take enough just reduces the chances of spina bifida and other disorders. If your diet is varied and healthy it will contain some amounts of folic acid as well and here in NZ they are discussing adding folic acid to bread now as well. (enriched bread) Many women have never taken supplements and still have healthy babies, but taking folic acid doesn't hurt either - though taking them the first trimester is most important for development. Hope this helps :)
by bbiers 1st Nov 2010, 8:59am
I just found out that im pregnant,and i am 12weeks pregnant,will there be a problem with my baby since i never took the folic acid tablets?
by 20061106 13th Oct 2010, 9:16am
how long does it take for the folic acid to work??
by lisa1990 13th Sep 2010, 9:59am
can i still take folice acid?im in 7 weeks pregnant...tnx
by yhing 12th Aug 2010, 10:20am
i was so excited about my pregnancy, so i learned i was pregnant only 2 weeks from my conception, during my check up, my OB advice me to drink commercially available milk for pregnant women coz they contain the necessary nutrients and folic acid that our baby needs. its much easier for me to remember to drink my milk than to take folic acid supplements.much more is it also contain calcium that's very vital to our babies bone taking this milk 2x daily.
by mhel 12th Aug 2010, 9:07am
I have been taking folic acid since i found out i was pregnant at 5 weeks, but im rubish at remebering to take them, so i have missed a few days. I had my 12 week scan yesturday and they said my baby looked healthly, i also had all the blood test done to make sure the baby hasnt got any diabilities. I am really worried after reading some comments and want to know if something was wrong would they have seen at the ultra sound,, thanks x
by Emmajames 11th Jun 2010, 5:41pm
Does Pregnacare contain folic acid and is it in order to still be taking it till 19 weeks of pregnancy (started since two months)
by AnnFavour 14th May 2010, 5:06pm
For many questions I found answers here
Hope this will help you too :)
by Muslimama 24th Dec 2009, 9:22am
sorry people ut i cant stress enough how important folic acid is!!!!!
i have just lost my baby because of my silliness thinking missing a few days was okay...its not!ur supposed to take it 3 months before and after ur pregnant.
In my first scan my baby was diagnosed with anencephaly..spina bifida in the head and i had to enducelabour at 12 weeks plz dont be as silly as i was x
by leannem449 30th Nov 2009, 10:04am
I was not taking Folic acid before I concieved. However, when I went to see the doctor at 5 weeks he said it was fine, and prescribed me 400mcg tablets to take until the end of the first trimester. I'm not great at remembering to take them, have missed a few days, but he says it doesn't matter - a bit is better than none.
by ItWasThePenguins 25th Nov 2009, 9:31am
i am 15 wks pregnant and i am not taking folic acid daily , is that ok ?
by bublles 8th Jul 2009, 9:13am
will it harm my baby if i forget to take my folic acid tablet or what time of day i take them thanks
by sallycat 27th Apr 2009, 9:32am
can i still take thos 400 mg of folic acid after i m pregnant??? please help.thanks
by herol 20th Apr 2009, 9:25am
I am not sure yet if i have conceived, but i feel so, i have not taken folic acid yet, am i too late?
by edna 6th Apr 2009, 9:18am
What happens if you regularly take too much folic acid in 1st trimester?
by janp6187 25th Mar 2009, 9:15am
Is there no problem if the intake of folic acid is more than 400mcg per day? For example 2.5mg or even 5mg?
by olgaki 17th Mar 2009, 9:20am
I have not taken Folic Acid regularly as I have missed it many times but I do feel scared now as I was not
aware of the seriousness of the whole thing. I am just wondering if everything will be fine.
I have just entered the second trimester of my pregnancy.
by Babloo 9th Mar 2009, 9:24am
can anyone tell me at what stage in pregnancy to stop takin folic acid big gap between this baby and my first out of touch thanks
by ang37 5th Mar 2009, 9:15am
i feel so awful as i have only started taking folic acid this week i says you should start before becoming pregant,which would of been difficult as this was unplanned but still i feel so bad i hope it hasnt done any bad
by Jemmajuicy 4th Mar 2009, 9:14am
I'm 15 wks pregnant, should I carry on taking folic acid until later on in my pregnancy?

by saraheee 28th Jan 2009, 9:00am
Hi, do you stop taking folic acid after 12 weeks or? some say to stay on it? ta xxxx
by clairejb08 26th Jan 2009, 9:38am
I was told to stop taking folic acid at wk 14 by my doctor the last time I was pregnant.
by Natasha10 21st Jan 2009, 5:27pm
I'm 13 wks pregnant, does this mean I can stop taking folic acid or should I carry on taking it until later on in my pregnancy?
by pots 12th Dec 2008, 9:44am
Is there no problem if the intake of folic acid is more than 400mg per day.
by click 17th Nov 2008, 8:50am
what do you mean by enriched breads? can i have chocolates?
by sifat 1st Oct 2008, 9:11am
The importance of folic acid during early stage of pregnancy it helps for strong pregnancy and healthy fetal development and not only to decrease the risk of neural tube birth defects but it has to reduce other birth defects like congenital heart conditions.
by rizza 21st May 2008, 8:47am