Folic acid, a B vitamin, helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord when taken before and during early pregnancy. The neural tube is the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord. When the neural tube does not close properly, a baby is born with a very serious birth defect called a neural tube defect (NTD).
We urge all women of childbearing age (even if they're not trying to get pregnant) to take the recommended amount of folic acid daily. This is especially important because studies have shown that upward of 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned.
What you can do:
Folic acid is available in most multivitamins, as a folic acid-only supplement and in some foods. Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day before pregnancy and during early pregnancy, as part of a healthy diet.
Eat a healthy diet that includes foods that contain folate, the natural form of the vitamin.
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Black beans
- Orange juice (from concentrate is best)
- Enriched breads and pasta
- Romaine lettuce
Folic Acid Is Good for Mom and Dad, Too
Folic acid is important for everyone in maintaining health. It plays an important role in the production of red blood cells. Folic acid may also help prevent certain health problems; research is still being done.