Folic acid prevents birth defects and promotes a healthy pregnancy

For people able to get pregnant, it’s important to think about your health now to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. One simple and effective way to protect your  baby’s health is by getting 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily. 

Last week was Folic Acid Awareness Week, reminding us of the importance of this nutrient during pregnancy. You can get 400 micrograms by eating  certain foods or taking  a daily multivitamin, making it easy to work into your everyday diet.

Folic acid is the human-made form of folate (a B vitamin) that can help prevent major defects in your baby’s brain and spine, also known as neural tube defects (NTDs). Getting 400 mcg of folic acid daily, whether through a daily multivitamin, fortified foods, or a combination of the two, can greatly reduce the risk of these conditions.  In addition to promoting a healthy pregnancy, folic acid can also help you feel better, have healthy and strong hair and nails, and make your skin glow. 

What does folic acid do to promote a healthy pregnancy?

Folic acid helps form the neural tube, which develops into the baby’s brain and spine during the first few weeks of pregnancy. When the neural tube does not form properly early in pregnancy, a baby can be born with serious birth defects of the brain and spine, such as anencephaly or spina bifida. 

Getting 400 mcg of folic acid every day helps to reduce the risk of these serious birth defects. These birth defects occur very early in pregnancy, often before a person learns they are pregnant. This is why it’s important for people who can get pregnant to get enough folic acid daily, even if they are not currently planning to get pregnant. 

Which foods contain folic acid?

Folate can be found naturally in foods such as beans, oranges, and leafy greens; however, it can be hard for most people to get enough of it through food alone. That’s where a folic acid vitamin comes in.

You can get enough folic acid to help prevent NTDs by taking a vitamin with folic acid each day, eating fortified foods like bread and cereal, or a combination of two, and eating foods that have folate. You could enjoy an orange or fortified orange juice with breakfast, eat a fortified breakfast cereal, and take your multivitamin with folic acid with a meal, either breakfast or lunch. 

How much folic acid do I need?

When pregnant, getting 400 to800 mcg of folic acid daily is an easy and powerful way to protect your future baby’s health and prevent serious birth defects. 

It is possible to get too much folic acid, but only from human-made products such as 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. Too much folic acid can hide signs that you lack vitamin B12, which can cause nerve damage.

Visit the Power Me A2Z folic acid program to sign up for your free three-month supply of multivitamins with folic acid and check out all the great information that will help you live your healthiest life.

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