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Why is Folic Acid important for Conception and Pregnancy?

When you are trying to get pregnant, Folic acid should figure on top of your health checklist. Folic acid, also called folate or folacin, is one of the B vitamins, also known as B9. It is a vital raw material for production of red blood cells, as well as norepinephrine and serotonin (chemical components of the nervous system). Folic acid also helps to synthesize genetic material in every cell of the body and normalize brain function. Taking folic acid before conception reduces the risk of neural-tube defects such as spina bifida.

Why do I need folic acid?

Folic acid is one of the few nutrients known to prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida, which affects one in every 1,000 babies born in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control report that women who take the recommended daily dosage of folic acid reduce their baby’s risk of some types of birth defects by 50 percent. Women who don’t get enough may increase their chance of miscarriage or still births. Folate-deficiency anemia and iron-deficiency anemia can have the same symptoms of fatigue and weakness. A mild folate deficiency can also leave you grumpy or edgy.

How much Folic acid do I need?

The recommended daily intake of folic acid for all women of childbearing age is at least 400 micrograms (mcg), or 0.4 milligrams (mg). During pregnancy, the recommended dose jumps up to 600 – 800 mcg, or 0.6 – 0.8 mg, a day. If you have a family history of neural-tube defects, you should probably get 4,000 mcg (or 4 mg) of folic acid a day. Most prenatal vitamins contain the appropriate dosage of folic acid along with other vitamins that will help you stay healthy.

Women who have had their first child with a neural tube defect have a higher risk of having a second with the same defect. Healthcare providers now advise these women to take at least 4 milligrams (mg) starting one month before conception, if possible, and continuing through the first three months of pregnancy.

Talk to your doctor about how much you need before and after you conceive. Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, so your body will flush out the excess if you consume too much. For some women, there’s an exception to this rule: Getting too much folate may hide a B-12 deficiency, sometimes a problem for vegetarians. Ask your doctor or midwife if you think you may be at risk.

Would a supplement be required?

A supplement will be a bonus. And eating plenty of folate-rich foods won’t hurt either, especially if you can’t stomach your prenatal vitamin early on in your pregnancy due to morning sickness.

Which foods contain Folic acid?

Leafy green vegetables are a good source of folate. And manufacturers are now required by the FDA to add folic acid to enriched cereal grain products such as flour, pasta, and rice. So replace the regular cereals with these and add a bowl of fresh salad to your daily diet. Other sources of Folic acid include, chicken liver, beef liver, lentils, wheat germ, spears, asparagus, papaya, broccoli, cantaloupe, eggs, canned salmon.

Last modified: February 10, 2013

The information provided here should not be considered medical advice. It is based on the average experience of women trying to conceive and may not be what you may be experiencing. It's not meant to be a replacement for any advice you may receive from your doctor. If you have any concerns about your cycle or our ability to get pregnant, we advise you to contact your doctor.