For Women: Folic acid for preconception and prenatal health

Folic acid is a B vitamin our bodies use to produce new cells. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all women intake 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.

Folic acid is especially important for pregnant women, as it can prevent major birth defects such as spina bifida (defect of the spine) and anencephaly (absence of the brain and skull). However, for folic acid to prevent most birth defects it must be taken at least one month prior to becoming pregnant.

Because 49 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, incorporating folic acid into your preconception health regiment is important whether you or not you are planning to become pregnant. The CDC’s national campaign, Show Your Love encourages women of childbearing age to start taking steps to improve their health before they become pregnant.

How to make sure you get the correct amount (400 mg) of folic acid daily:

  • Take a multivitamin everyday. Most multivitamins contain the right amount of folic acid women need daily.
  • Start your day with cereal. Some cereals are fortified with folic acid, but may not have the daily value. Check the labels to make sure the cereal contains 100 percent of the daily value.
  • Some birth control pills have folic acid in them. If you are already use the pill for contraception, ask your doctor about a birth control pill that contain folates.