What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a B vitamin. Folic acid helps the body make healthy new cells.
Why should women take folic acid?
All women need folic acid. When a woman has enough folic acid before and during pregnancy, it can help prevent major birth defects of her baby's brain or spine.
Be sure to get enough folic acid every day. Start before you are pregnant. Folic acid is needed during the first few weeks, often before a woman knows she is pregnant. And half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are not planned. That is why it's so important to start taking folic acid each day, even when you are not planning to get pregnant.
Folic acid might also have other benefits for men and women of any age. Some studies show that folic acid might help prevent heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and possibly Alzheimer's disease.
How can women get folic acid?
All women should aim to get at least 400 micrograms (400 mcg) of folic acid each day. There are a few easy ways she can do this.
* Take a daily vitamin that has folic acid in it. Most multivitamins sold in the U.S. have enough. Check the label on the vitamin to be sure. It should say ''400 mcg" or ''100%" next to folic acid. Some labels might use the word ''folate" for folic acid. Or you can take a vitamin pill that only has folic acid in it. You can find both of these types at your local grocery, drug store, or discount store.
* Another way to get enough folic acid is to eat a serving of breakfast cereal that contains 100% of the daily value (DV) for folic acid each day. Check the label on the box to be sure it has enough.
* Eat a healthy diet that contains lots of fruits and vegetables and other foods that have folic acid (or folate) in them or added to them. Foods that contain folic acid (or folate) include broccoli, asparagus, bananas, oranges, peas, nuts, bread, cereal, and flour.
How much folic acid should you take?
Read the descriptions below to see how much folic acid you should take. Check off the one that applies to you.
You are able to get pregnant. Take 400 mcg of folic acid every day.
You are pregnant. Take 600mcg of folic acid every day.
You are breastfeeding. Take 500mcg of folic acid every day.
You had a baby with spina bifida or anencephaly and want to get pregnant again. Talk with your doctor, and ask for a prescription for a higher dose of folic acid. You should take 4,000 micrograms (4,000 mcg) starting at least one to three months before getting pregnant and during the first 3 months of pregnancy. That's 10 times the normal amount! But don't try to get the larger amount by taking more than one multivitamin or prenatal vitamin a day. You could get too much of another vitamin that could harm you or your baby.
You had a baby with spina bifida or anencephaly. You are not planning to have another baby. Take 400 mcg of folic acid every day.