If you are planning to become pregnant you should take folic acid supplements and continue to take the supplements for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Folic acid supplements reduce the risk of having a baby born with a defect of their spinal cord such as spina bifida.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid (folate) is a vitamin needed to make new cells in the body. The body does not store very much of it, so you need a regular supply to keep healthy. Pregnant women in particular need a good supply of folic acid which is used by the developing baby.
Many vegetables contain folic acid including spinach, sprouts, broccoli, green beans, and potatoes. Some bread and breakfast cereals are fortified with folic acid.
Folic acid supplements and pregnancy
You should start taking folic acid from the time you plan to become pregnant. If the pregnancy is unplanned then start taking folic acid tablets as soon as you know that you are pregnant. Continue to take folic acid tablets for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy – even if you eat a good diet. You can buy folic acid tablets from pharmacies.
What dose should I take?
The normal dose for most women the dose is 400 micrograms (0.4mg) a day.
If you are at high risk of having a child with a spinal cord problem, then the dose is higher. (You need a prescription for this higher dose). That is, if:
- You have had a previously affected pregnancy.
- Your partner, or a first-degree relative, have a spinal cord defect.
- You have coeliac disease (as your intake of folate may be affected by this condition).
- You are taking medication for epilepsy.
- You have sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia.
In addition to folic acid supplements, you should eat a healthy diet when you are pregnant which should include foods rich in folic acid.
Are there any side-effects or risks when taking folic acid?
No. Folic acid is a naturally occurring vitamin, which your body needs. It is not a drug (medicine). By taking these supplements you are just making sure that you get a good, regular amount of folic acid, which you need especially during pregnancy.
Source: Good to Know